Films I watched on the plane

As some of my Twitter followers may know, I recently went on holiday to Southeast Asia, which involved a horribly long flight.

I decided to make the most of this time by watching all the films I have avoided for the past two years.

Generally I avoid films that people tell me are good. I don’t trust other people’s opinions, ever since they told me Star Wars was sound.

But faced with nothing to do other than worry about the circulation in my left bum cheek, I had to take my mind elsewhere – to Hollywood.

I had to try all these films that the media dahlings, and Joe Bloggs, said were so excellent.

Without further ado, here are some (rather breezy) film reviews.

Darkest Hour
I rather liked this one, even though I don’t generally enjoy biopics. I always find myself wondering about how realistic everything is; did Churchill really sneeze like that? Did he eat broccoli? The sort of questions that can be better answered in the blessed art form: the documentary.

Thankfully, Darkest Hour has a real sense of authenticity and avoids any sort of revisionism to please Guardian reader audiences (maybe they can have their own GR rating one day. Then we’ll know what films to avoid). Gary Oldman gives a fantastic portrayal, and it is a film that honours the leader and his achievements.

On a side note, I thought there were modern day parallels with Halifax in the movie, as he comes across as a bit of a pain, repeatedly telling Churchill to talk it out with Hitler. Sort of like the way Jeremy is telling us to chat with Russia…

As the film reminds us: “You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth”.

I, Tonya
Sorry to upset the myriad, but this film is absolutely dreadful, in SO many ways.

It is far too sympathetic with Tonya Harding, for starters, instead of the true victim of the story – Nancy Kerrigan, whose knee was bludgeoned in order to promote Harding’s competitive chances. Imagine being Kerrigan now; having to watch the woman implicated in this crime get her own Hollywood biopic. How does that work?

The trouble is that people – producers, the public, writers – have a very difficult time accepting that women can be bad people, so much they try to explain it through art. This comes across greatly in this film, which tries to justify Harding’s behaviour through the prism of her misfortunate upbringing.

Yes, Harding had a hard life, but directors should still not portray women as devoid of agency in their choices. Nor intellectualise people being bad or stupid.

Moreover, I, Tonya projects modern day sensibilities onto Harding’s life, as part of its apologist narrative. We are made to believe, for instance, that Harding was awarded low scores as an ice-skater because she was working class and couldn’t buy a nice outfit. Having Googled photographs of Kerrigan and Harding, I can confirm that they both looked equally terrible, as it was the 80s. And frankly, no one cares about class in sports. Medals, though…

On the same spectrum of ‘apology films’ is Molly’s Game.

I did like Molly’s Game, not least because it’s written (and directed) by Aaron Sorkin.

Sorkin’s films are always a fantastic mental workout, full of twists and turns, and multi-dimensional characters.

Molly’s Game is no different. It tells the (real life) story of Molly Bloom, a fiercely intelligent high-stakes poker entrepreneur. I would try to explain the plot in detail, but I don’t even know how to play poker, let alone fraudulent poker, and I’m pretty sure I went cross-eyed trying to understand everything. All I do know is that Molly was a bit naughty.

Sorkin’s screenplay has strange parallels with I, Tonya as it tries to provide explanations for Bloom’s behaviour that remove her agency, and render her sympathetic.

I wouldn’t be amazed if Bloom is on the psychopathic scale in real life. Psychopaths aren’t so much fearless, but aroused by fear, which is why they might like get a buzz out of extremely risky poker games.

This is why it is so strange that we are led to believe that Molly was, in some way, a victim of “the system”, and a lovely person.

Frankly, I think Harding and Bloom are both pretty cunning – in different ways – and a more interesting film might have made that statement.

Three Billboards
I have to confess, ever since I watched Frances McDormand do that laugh at the Oscars I have been a bit wary. She seems like the sort of person you might move a few rows away from on the bus.

In Three Billboards, I’m pretty sure Frances McDormand is playing Frances McDormand. This is a weird movie that I’m seems to be sending some sort of message about Trump supporters, which the baddies all seem to be based on.

McDormand’s character is Mildred Hayes, whose daughter has been raped and murdered in Missouri. Mildred sets up Three Billboards to draw attention to the crime, attracting controversy that leads to numerous run-ins with the police.

This is a film about willpower, empathy and vigilantism. I confess I most enjoyed the violent bits, though I found the ending slightly disappointing; it was a bit meandering, and some of the characters seemed to change personality too much. Even still, I definitely cannot accuse the director of denying McDormand any feminist agency. There is no other Frances McDormand.

I honestly knew this film would be boring because it’s about two people stuck in a room for 7 years. It’s actually intended as a hard hitting drama about a woman called Joy (Brie Larson) who gets kidnapped, then pregnant, before living with her son, in the room, for the next five years. Room is so boring that none of these bits made me sad. I spent the whole movie wanting the son to get a haircut.

The film is just too obvious. There’s a room, and they want to get out of the room, and everyone’s a bit upset along the way. The media dahlings said this was a brilliant movie, but I think maybe there were no other brilliant movies that year, because it isn’t. Also, I can’t help feeling Larson’s acting style is ‘the girl who got your order wrong in McDonald’s’. Not sure what the fuss is. My brother thinks she’s gorgeous, though.

Finally, I get onto Kingsman 1 and 2. Much to my surprise I actually ADORED these films, which made me laugh a lot. They had all my favourite things – cute dogs, camp humour, political incorrectness and Alfie Allen thrown into a mincer.

Kingsman 2 is written by Jane Goldman. I swear she does not get enough credit. She is brilliant and I can only hope I can write like her one day.

When I got home I forced my dad to watch Kingsmen 2, who told me I was deluded and it was rubbish. But sometimes things don’t have to be perfect to make you smile.

So yes, those are my plane reviews. I thought I’d end on a high note, so you won’t go away thinking I’m overly fussy about films. Which I don’t think I actually am. It’s just Star Wars is really, really crap.


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