I didn’t compile a Watchlist for September, as it was a thin month for viewing with back to school tiredness – apart from Strictly that is. However, October has been much more interesting – and I’ve been out to the cinema THREE times!
No Time to Die
Bond comes out of retirement to save the world one last time as Daniel Craig. I won’t spoil the plot, which gives Craig the send off he deserves. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin and wished we could have had more Christoph Waltz as Blofeld on the baddie front. Loved Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas, and you can never have enough Ben Wishaw.
Thanks to Denis Villeneuve, Frank Herbert’s epic novel finally gets a big screen treatment that works (just cross your fingers that part two does get made). George Lucas ripped off so much from Dune to make Star Wars, but Villeneuve has managed to create a dark and brooding film, with that epic feel which brings the politics to the fore, and gives the set piece battles and wonderful ornithopters a different feel to Lucas too. Timothée Chalamet is a great young lead as Paul Atreides, supported by Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem as Stilgar the Fremen leader, amongst a strong cast. Loved our little dose of Charlotte Rampling as the Bene Gesserit leader too – we never see her full face, but her voice is unmistakeable. Zendaya plays Chani, the young Fremen woman who’ll win Paul’s heart, but we don’t get to see much of her in the first installment, which ends when Paul and his mother escape to join the Fremen in the desert after the Harkonens destroy the main city on Arrakis. Loved the look and feel of this film, always aided by Hans Zimmer’s equally epic score.
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson’s latest is a delightful montage film with an ensemble cast, featuring cameos from just about everyone who has ever regularly worked with him on his other movies. The French Dispatch is a magazine supplement to the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. On the occasion of the death of the editor Arthur Howitzer Jr (Bill Murray), they publish one final issue – containing three great articles from the magazine’s past. The three stories are bookended by scenes where Arthur discusses the articles with their authors, a short travelogue with Owen Wilson as travel writer Herbsaint Sazerac which introduces us to the town of Ennui-sur-Blasé where the magazine is based, and then the ensemble of office staff after Arthur’s death. The three featured stories are entirely different to each other:
- In the first Tilda Swinton as a toothsome journalists recounts the story of the artist murderer Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio del Toro) who paints a series of abstract nudes of his prison guardienne Simone, (Léa Seydoux) which come to the attention of an imprisoned art dealer (Adrien Brody). Loved this one, especially del Toro’s growl!
- Frances McDormand is journalist Lucinda Krementz (based on Mavis Gallant) – who helps a young student revolutionary, Zefirelli, (Chalamet again) polish his manifesto. Chalamet shows a great comedic touch, and I loved Lyna Khoudri as Juliette, Zefirelli’s girlfriend who speaks only in French, very fast and seriously. Loved this one too.
- The final story is written by a food journalist, Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright (based partly on James Baldwin) who gets embroiled in a kidnap when he attends a dinner given by the Commissaire de Police prepared by legendary Chef Nescaffier. This story fell rather flat for me until it suddenly went into Tintin cartoon style at the end!
The whole film is a love letter to journalism of the kind espoused in The New Yorker. It is so incredibly detailed it would take several viewings to even begin to decipher all the references and spot all the cameos, some of which are voice only, that Anderson can pull together such casts of big names, some of whom are just in one scene is amazing. I just love the way he creates tableaux of characters, perfectly posed and arranged. The picturesque French town of Angoulême in the Charentes stands in for Ennui. I loved the mix of colour and monochrome sections for the parts in the past.
I really enjoyed the majority of it, just that third story dragged in parts. It’s pure Anderson and a return to live action after 2018’s stop-motion Isle of Dogs, which didn’t succeed for me in the way Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) did. Apparently, his next film, Asteroid City is to be a romance, and Tom Hanks is in the cast alongside the Anderson regulars.
But what about TV?
There is only one series to talk about, isn’t there? SQUID GAME – which I binged on this month.
Please don’t let children or young teens watch it.
This Korean series is the big hit of the autumn Netflix schedules. It follows a bunch of losers lured into playing a high stakes game to win a huge pot of money. What they don’t realise until too late is that the high stakes are life and death. 456 contestants must be reduced down to a single one who will win billions of won. Underneath the ultra-violence of the sadistic games the contestants are put through, there is a human story.
Gi-hun is a divorced father of one, a jobless chauffeur and a gambling addict; his mother suffers from diabetes but can’t afford her drugs and needs an operation. So when Gi-hun meets a man at a station who invites him to join a game for high stakes money, he accepts, awaking in a dormitory with 455 others, all in numbered green tracksuits. Gi-hun is number 456.
The combination of ultra-violence, the dark satire on greed, together with the human stories of characters like Gi-hun, who may be a loser but is a good man, is a strong mix, made more potent by the games being based on childhood ones that can unleash competitive behaviour in children. Some of the competitors will always compete against each other, others will look out for each other, and Gi-hun is the latter luckily.
Gosh, Squid Game‘s nine episodes were gripping from start to finish. The look was stunning too.
Have you watched it? What did you think?