Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris.
Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue. UK/USA 2017. 121 mins.
In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (Stone) and former men’s number one and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Carell) became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time. As their rivalry intensified in the media glare, both King and Riggs fought complex battles in their private lives: while she championed equality, the fiercely private King struggled to come to terms with her sexuality; at the same time, Riggs wrestled with his gambling demons at the expense of his family. Together, they served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions that continue to reverberate today.
Director: George Clooney. Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac. USA 2017. 104 mins.
Once again George Clooney steps behind the camera, this time directing a screenplay co-written with the Cohen brothers. Unsurprisingly then, this twisted tale of dark doings and social inequality beneath a superficially squeaky-clean 1950s American town has all the hallmarks of both the writers’ and director’s sharpest comedy-dramas. Uptight salaryman Gardner Lodge (Damon) is reeling from a break-in by thieves who kill his wheelchair-bound wife (Moore), leaving his son Nicky motherless. But, as Alexandre Desplat’s score shifts from laidback jazz to music of frenzied agitation, rats start being smelt, not least by a wonderfully snippy insurance agent (Isaac) and by the poor Nicky, brilliantly played by Noah Jupe. A sub-plot involving Lodge’s new black neighbours further upsets the apple-cart as the community attempts to drive them out.
Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, starring Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, pays homage to the moving tradition and literary beauty of artistic manifestos, ultimately questioning the role of the artist in society today.
Manifesto draws on the writings of Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxus artists, Suprematists, Situationists, Dogma 95 and other artists groups, as well as the musings of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers. Passing the ideas of Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, Sturtevant, Sol LeWitt, Jim Jarmusch, and other creators through his lens, Rosefeldt has edited and reassembled thirteen collages of artists’ manifestos.
Performing these ‘new manifestos’ as a contemporary call-to-action, Cate Blanchett inhabits thirteen different personas, and imbues remarkable dramatic life into both famous and lesser-known words in unexpected contexts.
Director: Sean Baker.
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto. USA 2017. 111 mins.
Movies starring children can veer between mawkish and improbable, but so far Sean Baker has focussed on making youthful friendship a central theme in his highly engaging, no-budget work (the much acclaimed Tangerine was shot on iPhones). This time, however, he has attracted substantial funding for his latest, The Florida Project, which will go down as one of the truly great movies about childhood. It stars two gifted if not precocious amateur six-year-olds, Brooklynn Prince and Valeria Cotto, who play best friends living below the poverty line, the former with her feckless mum (Bria Vinaite, also a gifted first-timer) in a tacky tourist motel managed by a caring but sharp-witted (and never better) Willem Dafoe. The girls’ infectious lust for life is free of moral and economic consequences, although these become apparent as the heady action careens joyously along. Simply wonderful.
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall. UK 2017. 71 mins.
Janet (Scott Thomas) has just been appointed to a key ministerial position in the shadow cabinet – the crowning achievement of her political career. She and her husband Bill (Spall) plan to celebrate this with a few close friends. As the guests arrive at their home in London, the party takes an unexpected turn when Bill suddenly makes some explosive revelations that take everyone present by surprise. What follows is a hilarious comedy of tragic proportions in which love, friendships and political convictions are soon called into question. From acclaimed British filmmaker Sally Potter, The Party is a smart, fast-paced film full of razor-sharp one-liners that perfectly suits these turbulent times.
Director: James Franco.
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Alison Brie, James Franco. USA 2017. 103 mins.
With The Disaster Artist, director James Franco (Spring Breakers, Pineapple Express) transforms the tragicomic true-story of aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau—an artist whose passion was as sincere as his methods were questionable—into a celebration of friendship, artistic expression, and dreams pursued against insurmountable odds. Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy’s cult-classic “disasterpiece” The Room (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”), The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and welcome reminder that there is more than one way to become a legend—and no limit to what you can achieve when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.
Director: Rian Johnson. Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac. USA 2017. TBC mins.
How do you follow The Force Awakens – a film that raked in two billion dollars at the box office and made the world fall in love with Star Wars all over again? That’s the mammoth task in the charge of The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson (Looper), who has lined up an epic adventure that challenges heroes old and new and delves deep into the mythology of the Force. Plot details are scarce, but the late Carrie Fisher plays a major role, and Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro join the cast. The film’s beating heart, however, is the relationship between Rey and Luke. Rey finally comes face to face with the Jedi master on the island of Ahch-To, but he’s not the man she was expecting to find.