Captain Marvel Makes a Human (Not a Feminist) Statement

Captain Marvel is a superhero also known as Carol Danvers. Before she became Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was a fighter pilot. A human with quirks, vulnerabilities and friendships. As a superhero Captain Marvel has a streaming light source that courses through her body and makes her a powerful fighter. In Captain Marvel the film, Captain Marvel learns to understand and appreciate these two parts of herself.

Marvel is a woman, and her former sidekick and boss were also women. Marvel has little problem beating up men and male aliens. This setting and characterisation is a great platform for a feminist statement. And yet Captain Marvel is not that. The film makes more of a comment about ordinary people who become heroes. It’s just that the main character in this story happens to be a woman.

I liked that. It’s not a film about women proving who they are. Or about women being better than men. Or women being just as good as men in male-dominated roles. It’s as if Captain Marvel has leapfrogged over aggressive feminist debates to a future world where women, and men, are just humans (or in this case superheroes).

There are problems with the film. From the jarring over-the-top, future-world, Star-Trek like sequences in the beginning it’s a relief when Marvel, followed by warring Skrulls and Krees, arrives on Earth (planet C53). And yet this change in scenery is also a plot weakness. It’s as if the superhero stuff in the beginning couldn’t be believably sustained and so the story switches to something audiences can easily identify with.

But plenty of lighthearted humour in the explosive outer-world scenes and in the down-to-earth ones, do make Captain Marvel fun to watch. Marvel (Brie Larson) herself is quite funny, and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), a cop that Marvel teams up with, is very amusing. As is a sweet ginger cat who is not quite as he would seem, and who travels into space with Marvel and her cohorts.

I enjoyed Captain Marvel. The film opens at cinemas in South Africa on 8 March 2019.

Genius satisfies

 

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Colin Firth and Jude Law in Genius. Image source: http://tinyurl.com/jqdv7b8

In Genius Colin Firth plays the self-controlled American, Max Perkins, who was editor at Scribner when Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway wrote their first books. A man of few words, Perkins’s time is taken up in this story largely with Thomas Wolfe, a self-absorbed, insecure and immature – but potentially brilliant – writer. Jude Law takes the part of Wolfe, and captures well the writer’s frenzied, selfish ways. Nicole Kidman acts as Wolfe’s slightly unhinged common-law wife, Aline Bernstein, whose astute human insights are unbalanced by her very public and confrontational relationship with the writer. Max’s wife, Louise Perkins (played by Laura Linney), and mother to the couple’s five daughters, is contrasted with the caustic Aline, not so much because of Louise’s less volatile character, but because of her and Max’s more mature and value-rich marriage.

The friendship that develops between Max and Thomas during the publication of Thomas’s first book is interesting to watch – from dependence, to mutual passion, to obsession, hurt and distance, to forgiveness and growth. It is this, and the relationships already mentioned, that form the basis of this absorbing period film. Focusing on the human aspect and on values against the literary backdrop captured my attention. And, like its subject matter, the film runs as a complete story, with tension build up, denouement and conclusion. Very satisfying indeed.

Genius opens in cinemas in South Africa on 15 July 2016.

 

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely a favourite for the Oscar

Oscar Buzz – Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, Wild and The Grand Budapest Hotel A Feast of Tales has reviewed Birdman, Boyhood and The Imitation Game, three of the films nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. Here we review four more of the nominated films, excluding American Sniper and Selma. The Academy Awards will be announced on 22 February 2015. Reviews by Brenda Daniels Whiplash In this film young music student Andrew (Miles Teller) is accepted into a prestigious music group conducted by the revered and feared Fletcher (J K Simmons). Andrew becomes Fletcher’s new protégée. Far from being nurturing, however, Fletcher’s teaching style fluctuates wildly between favouritism and cruelty. Young, impressionable and, most importantly, ambitious, Andrew, is sucked in by Fletcher and tossed about in a manner reminiscent of the film’s title Whiplash (Whiplash is also the title of the music group’s main song). The audience is drawn in to some extent as well and at times I wondered whether Fletcher had good intentions or simply enjoyed torturing his students. But ultimately Whiplash is a bildungsroman – the maturing of young Andrew Neimann. The picture of his protective father (Paul Reiser) looking with astonishment from the stage wings on his son’s superb drumming performance is symbolic of this. It is a memorable moment.

Miles Teller plays the lead role in Oscar nominated film, Whiplash. Photo: creative Commons

Miles Teller plays the lead role in Oscar nominated film, Whiplash. Photo: creative Commons

The Theory of Everything Another Oscar contender for best film is The Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking. The film focuses more on Hawking’s personal life than on his professional life, and highlights his relationships and the progression of his illness. It spans several years, starting with Hawking’s time at Cambridge University to the launch of his first books in America. The romance of the young lovers Stephen and Jane is touchingly portrayed and Jane is to be admired for committing to marriage shortly after Stephen’s motor neurone disease diagnosis. At the time doctors had given him only two years to live. Stephen’s reaction to this news is seen in his sudden decision to do his PhD on “The Nature of Space and Time” (the title of one of his books). Other book titles appear in the film in the form of conversations and lectures. And Stephen’s atheism is shown in contrast to Jane’s gentle, yet enduring, Christian beliefs. Eddie Redmayne’s acting as the increasingly infirm Hawking is really good. But I would have welcomed a more intense focus on the scientist’s “theories of everything”; without it the plot is not meaty enough.

Felicity Jones plays a supporting role as Jane Hawkings in Oscar nominated film, The Theory of Everything. Photo: Creative Commons

Felicity Jones plays a supporting role as Jane Hawkings in Oscar nominated film, The Theory of Everything. Photo: Creative Commons

Wild Cheryl Strayd (Reese Witherspoon) embarks alone on a tough, demanding hike known as the Pacific Crest Trail. As her journey progresses, flashbacks to her past reveal that Cheryl has set out on this endeavour in order to properly grieve the death of her mother. A little self-indulgent to begin with, the film improves with time and I found myself identifying with Cheryl. For instance, Cheryl kicks a gas canister in frustration after discovering she had bought the wrong one. She accidentally knocks one of her boots into a ravine and then flings its companion after it in a fit of rage. I could see myself doing those things too. I also identified with images of Cheryl’s mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern). Laura Dern acts her part beautifully. The performance is worthy of its best supporting actress nomination and Dern certainly gets my vote. Bobbi’s relationship with her two young children (Cheryl and her brother Leif [Keen McRae]) is a delight to see and I found myself thinking fondly of the many hours I had spent with my own two children.

Reese Witherspoon, seen at the 83rd Academy Awards. She plays the chief character in Oscar nominated film, Wild. Photo: Creative Commons

Reese Witherspoon, seen at the 83rd Academy Awards. She plays the chief character in Oscar nominated film, Wild. Photo: Creative Commons

The Grand Budapest Hotel This is one of my favourites of the eight nominated for best film. The European setting in an indefinable hotel between the two world wars is mysterious, exotic and therefore attractive. The characters are a surprise. The acclaimed concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is a refined, loyal employee of the Grand Budapest Hotel. But he also swears with abandon, cons old ladies out of their fortunes and gets arrested in the process. His new bell boy, Zero Moustafa, is amusing. He hardly speaks in the movie and his activities revolve mostly around drawing a moustache onto his upper lip every morning and rushing with wide eyes to do Gustave’s bidding. The pair nevertheless develop a humorously close relationship. All of this is couched in action that reminded me of the comics I read as a child; a funicular makes its way up a ridiculously steep pathway to the remotely situated hotel; Gustave’s escape from prison involves overly long ladders, unfortunate deaths and speedy getaways in snow-blanketed landscapes. Though not everyone’s cup of tea, I simply loved this film. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a delight.

Ralph Fiennes stars in Oscar nominated film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Photo: Creative Commons

Ralph Fiennes stars in Oscar nominated film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Photo: Creative Commons