Minari – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Cho and Yuh-Jung Youn. Directed by Lee Isaac Chung Written by Lee Isaac Chung Length: 115mins

Minari is a wonderfully absorbing and moving family drama. Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung based it loosely on his childhood growing up on a farm in Arkansas in the 1980s. It’s a basic story, not especially dramatic or complicated, but it pulls it’s audiences into the vulnerabilities and intricacies of family life while focussing mainly on the young son, David, and his Grandmother. Minari is infused with a really warm sentimentality and, while Chung has explained that it is a fictionalised account of his rural childhood, he has managed to create a real sense of authenticity from start to finish.

From the opening shot Minari adopts the visuals of a well-loved classic, it’s difficult to explain other than it feels familiar. Perhaps this is an element that Chung fought for, that familial essence of a regular family experiencing life. The story itself explores the issues faced while balancing medical concerns, family tensions and the driving desire to establish a successful family farm. One component that was really interesting to me is that this focus on the relational journey of the family was the key narrative in a story that on paper could have delved into a ‘fish out of water’ immigration story. The film makers haven’t attempted to speak to the full experience of being a Korean in America and racism, when encountered in the film, is only communicated by an unthinking child; an interaction that moves swiftly into a friendship. I’m pleased that the topic of racism wasn’t avoided completely, it’s vaguely present, but isn’t the driving force of the story and invites the audience to understand that immigrants experience other issues as well as racism in their day to day lives.

While the whole cast presented really strong performances you have to mention Yuh-Jung Youn as Grandma and Alan Kim as David. A lot of the story focusses around the relationship between the two and they create something so pure. There’s nothing stereotypical about their character choices and it allows the audience to feel a real sense of inclusion as their story develops. Something that was very refreshing was that Chung didn’t feel the need to increase the drama unnecessarily, he managed to create a really lovely ‘flow’ that was maintained by authentic characters.

Minari is really about the universal dynamics of a family struggling to survive and daring to want to thrive. Of what happens to men, to fathers, when they feel they have to succeed at the expense of everything else, including the very family they’re claiming to do it for. But also about roots: how they’re sunk and can be torn out if not tended to. The gentle, quietly rhythmic pace could mistakenly be called a lack of dynamism, but actually there’s a boldness and confidence in the complete lack of emotional and dramatic manipulation. Unfortunately due to the events of 2020 I fear that the opportunity to watch this film is significantly limited, but I implore you, if you get the opportunity to watch it on the big screen, please do. It’s really lovely work and deserves to be seen by the masses. 

Darkest Hour – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ronald Pickup. Directed by Joe Wright Written by Anthony McCarten Length: 125mins

In 2017 Joe Wright directed this undeniably captivating account of Winston Churchill’s ‘darkest hour’ in 1940 as Hitlers forces were gathering across the channel, poised to invade. While the subject matter naturally prepares it’s audience for a tension-building portrayal of such an important period of Great British history, it’s not only the plot that is worthy of it’s audiences attention. This is not so much a period war drama, rather a detailed political thriller presenting a leader up against not only one of the sheer enormity of Hitlers Nazi Germany, but political swipes within his own Government.

While obviously the key plot points are guided by historical fact, it’s important to recognise that there are moments of fiction written into the film. It’s an interesting opportunity to remind a contemporary audience that big issues did not simply vanish the moment Churchill took over as Prime Minister, and with such a famous outcome it seemed to be a difficult challenge for the filmmakers to really paint the picture wherein the characters didn’t know the outcome of the events of the story. 

Darkest Hour collected a fantastic array of nominations and wins throughout the 2018 awards season, with Gary Oldman’s performance as Churchill winning most of the prestigious ‘best actor’ awards. It’s clear that without Oldman this films success may not have been so prolific. He manages to demonstrate Churchill’s courage effortlessly while still presenting the ‘grumpy old man’ with glimpses of humour. While Oldman is the main draw of the film, his co-stars of Lily James and Kristen Scott-Thomas bring a really lovely balance to the other characters on screen throughout.

Joe Wright is a reliable filmmaker with a very impressive list of filmography. You can’t help but notice the large scale features on that list including Anna Karenina, Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, with Darkest Hour fitting in nicely with the aesthetic of some of his previous works. Darkest hour is  a crowd-pleasing historical epic that knows when to keep moving and when to dwell on a moment.

There seems to be a renewed appetite for wartime movies in recent times and this one is an important watch amongst the others. Darkest Hour manages to exhibit Churchill’s daring bravery while not fully absolving him nor idolising him, rather it humanises him. I would suggest that for the sake of history this film is a necessary watch, but even if you have no interest in history it is Gary Oldman giving a masterclass for over two hours and that alone is reason to watch Darkest Hour.

Active Spectator Film Awards – THE RESULTS.

After an incredible year of film it’s always difficult to pin point one winner per category, to compare films that are completely different, with varied characters, styles and choices it’s always going to cause debate as to one ‘winner’. But as long as excellence prevails within the industry it’s always fun to take all elements into consideration and try to come to a decision. Now we know you’ve been waiting a whole week for these results, so without further ado…

Best Picture:

Little Women
Marriage Story
Parasite
1917

Winner: MARRIAGE STORY

Noah Baumbach brought us what is described as ‘a love story through the lens of divorce’. Although a topic that most wouldn’t choose to spend their evening contemplating, it’s undeniable that this film is an incredible piece of art. Powerful performances, brilliant writing and a real whole package delivered with the raw truthful feel that Baumbach is known for.

Best Lead Actress:

Renee Zellweger (Judy)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Florence Pugh (Midsommar)
Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)

Winner: RENEE ZELLWEGER (JUDY)

Renee Zellweger’s portrayal of Judy Garland during her final concert tour of England is simply outstanding. From transforming physically into Garland with gesture and movement to the phenomenal vocal performances of both spoken word and song, this was a no brainer. A really strong category but one of the easier choices.

Best Lead Actor:

Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse)

Winner: ADAM DRIVER (MARRIAGE STORY)

Adam Driver stepped into a whole new league with his work in Marriage Story, he was outstanding in every way and his performance propelled the telling of this incredible story in such an authentic way. A really difficult category to pick a winner from, but for us, Drivers performance is the one that stood out in a way that the others didn’t.

Best Supporting Actress:

Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Jessie Buckley (Judy)


Winner: FLORENCE PUGH (LITTLE WOMEN)

When it comes to the role of supporting actress, it’s undeniable that Florence Pugh’s performance not only succeeded on its own, but also elevated the acting of those around her. Despite the often immature and boisterous nature of her character, Pugh maintained a clear understanding of her status in relation to the others, but was still able to shine when articulating the ways in which Amy – the youngest of the four sisters – had matured as an artist, and a member of the family.

Best Supporting Actor:

Timothee Chalamet (Little Women)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
Sam Rockwell (Richard Jewell)

Winner: WILLEM DAFOE (THE LIGHTHOUSE)

Willem Dafoe perfectly emodies everything that The Lighthouse is. Terrifying, complex and mysterious, the power with which some lines and monologues are delivered are brilliantly overwhelming. From moments of careless cruelty to scenes where we can’t help but feel empathy for him, Dafoe’s range within this film is truly excellent.

Best Director:

Greta Gerwig (Little Women)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Bong-Joon Ho (Parasite)
Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)

Winner: BONG-JOON HO (PARASITE)

There are so many brilliant intricacies within Bong Joon-ho’s work that further the impact of his overall message. The themes presented within Parasite are so well articulated that they must be celebrated, and that’s why we’ve chosen him for best director.

Best Cinematography:

Roger Deakins (1917)
Marshall Adams (El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie)
Hong Kyung-pyo (Parasite)
Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse)

Winner: JARIN BLASCHKE (THE LIGHTHOUSE)

I know, I know, why did this beat 1917? It’s undeniable that Deakins work on the war drama was brilliantly effective, but so too was Blaschke’s work on The Lighthouse. The ambiguity emphasised by shots throughout the film, as well as how each moment was effectively under or overstated as a result of the camerawork fit perfectly within the film’s narrative – just what great cinematography should do.

Best Original Score:

Hildur Guonadottir (Joker)
Thomas Newman (1917)
Mark Korven (The Lighthouse)
Michael Abels (Us)

Winner: HILDUR GUONADOTTIR (JOKER)

The score that accompanies the twisted origin story for the world’s most beloved villain is so intoxicating that it’s almost tangible. Guonadottir’s unorthodox approach to composition presents an entirely knew way of making film music, bringing in the real-world sounds of the film to further immerse the audience. In a year of intelligent composing, Guonadottir stands above the rest.

Re-Watchability:

Fishermans Friends
Fighting With My Family
Yesterday
Little Women
Knives Out

Winner: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

Filled with great characters and great moments, Fighting With My Family is one of the most joyful films of the year. With moments of conflict that further immerse you in the future of these young wrestlers and their families, you can’t help but warm to those on-screen. As well as this, it’s great to see those in the film go on to bigger and better things, with Florence Pugh starring in both Midsommar and Little Women, Jack Lowden being nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award, and director Stephen Merchant continuing his great comedic work in JoJo Rabbit.

Tension-Builder:

Us
Midsommar
The Lighthouse
Parasite
Uncut Gems

Winner: MIDSOMMAR

Though 2019 delivered a wide array of terrifying films, Ari Aster’s Midsommar is perhaps the tensest of them all. As so many have highlighted, Aster takes everything that is so horrifying in the dark, and brings it into broad daylight, where no one can shy away. With a fairly extensive runtime, the intensity of this film only heightens throughout, drawing audiences on the edge of their seat the entire time.

Most Impactful:

Bombshell
1917
Parasite
Judy

Winner: 1917

1917 takes it’s audience on an emotional, edge of seat journey giving a glimpse of the horrors of war. Though not a film for people to sit down and watch over and over again it powerfully moves its audience with it’s extraordinary storytelling.

Based On A True Story:

Official Secrets
Richard Jewell
Fighting With My Family
The Irishman
Ford Vs Ferrari

Winner: FORD VS FERRARI

There have been some exceptional films made ‘based on a true story’ this year. Ford vs Ferrari (also known as Le Mans ’66) managed to draw in audiences that have no interest in cars or racing, purely because of their ability to tell the story. They honoured truth while captivating and entertaining audiences.

Escapism:

Avengers: Endgame
Jojo Rabbit
Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil
Spiderman: Far From Home
Toy Story 4

Winner: AVENGERS: ENDGAME

It’s unmistakable that Avengers: Endgame utilised everything at it’s fingertips to transport it’s audience into the MCU. Whether by years of build up from previous films and getting to know the characters or through the phenomenal effects or performances; Avengers: Endgame is the perfect film to forget about reality and jump into an action/fantasy adventure.

Family Friendly:

Maleficent 2: Mistress Of Evil
Toy Story 4
Aladdin
Detective Pikachu
The Lion King

Winner: ALADDIN

In May 2019 Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin burst on to our cinema screens in a rush of colour, excitement and songs. With a slight twist on Disney’s animated version there’s something for everyone and is a great choice for the whole family to enjoy.

Laugh Out Loud:

Jojo Rabbit
Booksmart
Fighting With My Family
ZombieLand 2: Double-Tap
Jumanji: The Next Level

Winner: JOJO RABBIT

Perhaps its the surreal nature of the narratives context, maybe its the perfectly-timed delivery of the films dialogue, there’s something about JoJo Rabbit that can’t help but make you laugh. Taika Waititi’s ability to capture childhood imagination once again shines through in his latest film, and he manages to find humour and hope in even the darkest of situations.

So that’s it for this years Active Spectator Film Awards, we’re excited to see which films we’ll be discussing this time next year.

Active Spectator Film Awards 2019/2020 – Shortlist

Hello Ladies and Gentleman, and welcome to the first and (currently) most popular Active Spectator Film Awards ever! We’ve comprised a list of the 2019/20 film releases that we think deserve recognition for their brilliant addition to the world of cinema. Have a look and see what we believed was worthy of celebration from an excellent year for film, and check back in a weeks’ time (Sunday the 16th) when we’ll be sharing the winners for each category, as well as little bit of reasoning for why we think they deserved the top prize.

The nominations are…

Best Picture:

  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • Parasite
  • 1917

Best Lead Actress:

  • Renee Zellweger (Judy)
  • Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
  • Florence Pugh (Midsommar)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)

Best Lead Actor:

  • Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
  • Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
  • Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse)

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Florence Pugh (Little Women)
  • Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
  • Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
  • Jessie Buckley (Judy)

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Timothee Chalamet (Little Women)
  • Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
  • Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
  • Sam Rockwell (Richard Jewell)

Best Director:

  • Greta Gerwig (Little Women)
  • Sam Mendes (1917)
  • Bong-Joon Ho (Parasite)
  • Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)

Best Cinematography:

  • Roger Deakins (1917)
  • Marshall Adams (El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie)
  • Hong Kyung-pyo (Parasite)
  • Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse)

Best Original Score:

  • Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker)
  • Thomas Newman (1917)
  • Mark Korven (The Lighthouse)
  • Michael Abels (Us)

It isn’t always just the most ambitious or dramatic films which deserve the most attention, and so we’ve comprised a list of a few more unusual categories. Take a look at what we’ve nominated and have a think about what you want to see win. Perhaps you’ll be reminded of a few smaller releases that you missed last year, and can catch up on in 2020!

Re-Watchability:

  • Fishermans Friends
  • Fighting With My Family
  • Yesterday
  • Little Women
  • Knives Out

Tension-Builder:

  • Us
  • Midsommar
  • The Lighthouse
  • Parasite
  • Uncut Gems

Most Impactful:

  • Bombshell
  • 1917
  • Parasite
  • Judy
  • Marriage Story

Based On a True Story:

  • Official Secrets
  • Richard Jewell
  • Fighting With My Family
  • The Irishman
  • Ford vs Ferrari

Escapism:

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil
  • Spiderman: Far From Home
  • Toy Story 4

Family-Friendly:

  • Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil
  • Toy Story 4
  • Aladdin
  • Detective Pikachu
  • The Lion King

Laugh Out Loud:

  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Booksmart
  • Fighting With My Family
  • Zombieland 2: Double-Tap
  • Jumanji: The Next Level