Award-Winning Triple Bill

Caught up with some well-regarded flicks which gathered a bauble or two over the last while. Starting with...

A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper, 2018) was the front-runner for the 2019 Oscars for a while, before a slightly unfair backlash scuppered its chances and left it taking home just the Best Original Song award from 8 nominations. It is true that, as the fourth version of this story, it doesn't really do anything new with the material, but it is still an accomplished directorial debut from Cooper, well-paced and assured in its presentation. In the acting stakes, he also impresses as the self-destructive Jackson Maine, while opposite him Lady Gaga is equally good as Ally, no doubt bringing her experience of the music industry to bear on her performance as she transitions from bar-singer to star. Even if you have seen the other versions, this is still a handsome, romantic musical drama.

Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018) won the Palme d'Or in 2018 at Cannes and manages to be both a heart-warming and heart-breaking watch. A family living in poverty on the outskirts of Tokyo, who supplement their meagre income with acts of petty crime, decide to 'adopt' a little girl who they find wandering the streets. It's a simple set-up and the first half of the film provides the warmth as the obvious tenderness between the various members of the household is demonstrated in tiny moments and quietly affecting scenes. But it can't last and the heartbreak follows as somewhat inevitable events occur, when some surprising revelations and the harsh realities of life intrude on their simple existence. It's like getting a nice hug from someone, only to find they've stolen your wallet in the process. Recommended.

Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016) won Best Actor for Casey Affleck and Best Original Screenplay for Lonergan at the 2017 Oscars, but I had avoided seeing it because it didn't sound like a lot of fun. And guess what? I was right. This is a wintry melodrama about how Lee (Affleck), a loner with a tragic past, copes with being unexpectedly asked to be legal guardian for his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), an arrangement neither of them is too happy with. Be warned; this is not one of those tales in which a seemingly mismatched pair eventually bond - it's a much more downbeat and realistic depiction of how grief and guilt can affect a person's ability to form relationships. It isn't happy watching, but both Affleck and Hedges are really good here and the film's flashback structure helps keep the interest. Chilly viewing, though.

There you go, something more low-brow next time methinks...

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