The day after the Oscars were awarded seems a good time to talk about films. I was really pleased the Olivia Coleman won Best Actress for her performance in The Favourite which I thought was a mesmerising, fast moving and engaging romp. She was terrific as the lonely, sad and ill (gout) Queen Anne. And Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone were great as the two women vying for her affection and through it, her protection.

I loved the fact that it was all about women! There was a real feminist sensibility at work here expressed through very witty dialogue. Are you here to seduce me or to rape me? / I’m a gentleman! / So rape then. Men, looking ridiculous in enormous wigs that flopped about their shoulders and wearing ridiculous make up were almost peripheral. It’s quite revealing about what women had to do to survive in a pretty brutal world – early eighteenth century England. Even if you were a monarch with absolute power like Anne and even if you were well connected like Lady Sarah Marlborough. But it was a real quagmire for a woman of no means at all like Abigail.

I wasn’t concerned about historical accuracy while watching it all unfold. One of the two screenplay writers, Tony McNamara (the other was Deborah Davis) said they didn’t want to make a BBC style drama, but rather to take an historical story and re-invent it. We didn’t care about the history that much. We just wanted to make an interesting movie. [Guardian 23 January 2019] Nevertheless having enjoyed the result I was keen to see which bits were true and checked out Wikipedia. Sure enough all of these people existed and yes the Queen did have 15 miscarriages (tragic) although she didn’t have any rabbits (but they were a wonderful idea). And yes there was competition between these two women for the Queen’s favours and yes there was a war and yes the Queen did address the Parliament which was divided on the issue of raising funds to fight it. So, quite a lot true. Not that it matters as they succeeded in making a very interesting movie.

I’m very pleased that I overcame my scepticism about Yorgos Lanthimos whose earlier films – The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer – I had not warmed to (putting it mildly). This is completely different. Sumptuous looking with ravishing costumes and gorgeous interiors beautifully filmed in rich, warm colours. I loved everything about it.

I would have given it the Oscar for best picture! I think Lanthimos deserved Best Director and the writers Best Original Screenplay. But there you go. Both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz were up for Best Supporting Actor but it would have been unfair on the one missing out if either had won. That’s a tough call! It was good Olivia won Best Actress at any rate. Here’s the trailer.

Another film that I enjoyed very much, which wasn’t in the running for best picture but for which Richard E Grant was nominated for best supporting actor was Can You Ever Forgive Me. I thought it was terrific and that, while Richard has been getting lots of attention for his portrayal of Jack Hock all of the performances were great. Including Melissa McCarthy as the down on her luck author Lee Israel who turns to forging letters from famous authors in order to make money. She brings warmth and poignancy to a pretty difficult character.

It’s a true story that Israel wrote about and the movie is based on her novel of the same name that comes from a line from one of her forged Dorothy Parker letters. She was a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker Israel says in the movie. She forged over 400 letters, including 150 by Noel Coward two of which were included in a published collection and had to be removed in 2007! They were that good. My volume of Coward letters is post 2007 which is a pity (they’re good letters).

A very snarky review in the Times Literary Supplement said the film does its best to turn a minor literary scandal into a human interest story. Unfortunately there’s not much human interest there. [TLS 15 February 2019] I disagree completely. It was an interesting story with a couple of quite damaged people at its centre. And it showed a light on a pretty unattractive literary activity; the trade in authorial flotsam.

I loved all of the performances. I loved the look of the film, which was all autumnal colours; filmed in bars and book stores from the period that are still in existence. And I loved the music. There’s a tenderness to the story telling. The director is Marielle Heller has been praised by the actors for having such a calm set. Maybe that comes through.

Richard’s character becomes a collaborator with Israel when collectors become suspicious of her. He was a well known gay character around the Village but basically homeless and eventually died of Aids which is hinted at in the film. They make an unlikely alliance. Melissa was terrific throughout bringing real heart and soul to a difficult character. I was teary during the court room scene. So I’m sorry that Richard didn’t get the Oscar he was up for. The writer, Nicole Holofcener was up for Best Adapted Screenplay and also missed out. Here’s the trailer.

The only other films I’ve seen in contention for Oscars were Isle of Dogs which was up for Best Animated Feature and which I enjoyed, it being a typical droll Wes Anderson number. Also three that were vying for Best Foreign Language Film; Cold War which I found emotionally disengaging, Capernuaum which was devastating and Shoplifters which I think should have won. But I haven’t seen Roma which did.

 

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