Welcome to the House of Crouse. As we start another year we’re taking one more week to remember the good stuff about 2017. Christopher Nolan stopped by the HoC to talk empathy, his epic war film “Dunkirk” and what movies inspired him to make movies. Ethan Hawke came by to talk “Maudie,” the biopic of Nova Scotian painted Maud Lewis and why he feels he never had his big break. It’ll give you something to think about in the New Year so c’mon in and sit a spell.
Baby Driver: Although it contains more music than most tuneful of movies “Baby Driver,” the new film from director Edgar Wright, isn’t a musical in the “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music” sense. Wallpapered with 35 rock ‘n roll songs on the soundtrack it’s a hard driving heist flick that can best be called an action musical.
The Big Sick: Even when “The Big Sick” is making jokes about terrorism and the “X-Files” it is all heart, a crowd-pleaser that still feels personal and intimate.
Call Me By Your Name: This is a movie of small details that speak to larger truths. Director Luca Guadagnino keeps the story simple relying on the minutiae to add depth and beauty to the story. The idyllic countryside, the quaint town, the music of the Psychedelic Furs and the languid pace of a long Italian summer combine to create the sensual backdrop against which the romance between the two blossoms. Guadagnino’s camera captures it all, avoiding the pitfalls of melodrama to present a story that is pure emotion. It feels real and raw, haunted by the ghosts of loves gone by.
Darkest Hour: This is a historical drama with all the trappings of “Masterpiece Theatre.” You can expect photography, costumes and period details are sumptuous. What you may not expect is the light-hearted tone of much of the goings on. While this isn’t “Carry On Churchill,” it has a lighter touch that might be expected. Gary Oldman, not an actor known for his comedic flourishes, embraces the sly humour. When Churchill becomes Prime Minister his wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) makes an impassioned speech about the importance of the work he is about to take on. He raises a glass and, cutting through the emotion of the moment, says, “Here’s to not buggering it up!” It shows a side of Churchill not often revealed in wartime biopics.
The Disaster Artist: The key to pulling off “The Disaster Artist” is not recreating “The Room” beat for beat, although they do that, it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and Franco commits to it 100%. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable but underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view he’s either delusional or aspirational but in Franco’s hands he’s never also never less than memorable. It’s a broad, strange performance but it may also be one of the actor’s best.
Dunkirk: This is an intense movie but it is not an overly emotional one. The cumulative effect of the vivid images and sounds will stir the soul but despite great performances the movie doesn’t necessarily make you feel for one character or another. Instead its strength is in how it displays the overwhelming sense of scope of the Dunkirk mission. With 400,000 men on the ground with more in the air and at sea, the sheer scope of the operation overpowers individuality, turning the focus on the collective. Director Christopher Nolan’s sweeping camera takes it all in, epic and intimate moments alike.
The Florida Project: This is, hands down, one of the best films of the year. Low-budget and naturalistic, it packs more punch than any superhero. Director Sean Baker defies expectations. He’s made a film about kids for adults that finds joy in rocky places. What could have been a bleak experience or an earnest message movie is brought to vivid life by characters that feel real. It’s a story about poverty that neither celebrates or condemns its characters. Mooney’s exploits are entertaining and yet an air of jeopardy hangs heavy over every minute of the movie. Baker knows that Halley and Moonie’s well being hangs by a thread but he also understands they exist in the real world and never allows their story to fall into cliché.
Get Out: This is the weirdest and most original mainstream psychodrama to come along since “The Babadook.” The basic premise harkens back to the Sidney Poitier’s classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” In that film parents, played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, have their attitudes challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African American fiancé. The uncomfortable situation of meeting in-laws for the first time is universal. It’s the added layers of paranoia and skewered white liberalism that propels the main character’s (Daniel Kaluuya) situation into full-fledged horror. In this setting he is the other, the stranger and as his anxiety grows the social commentary regarding attitudes about race in America grows sharper and more focussed.
Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig’s skilful handling of the story of Lady Bird’s busy senior year works not just because it’s unvarnished and honest in its look at becoming an adult but also, in a large degree, to Saoirse Ronan’s performance. I have long called her ‘Lil Meryl. She’s an actor of unusual depth, a young person (born in 1994) with an old soul. Lady Bird is almost crushed by the weight of uncertainty that greets her with every turn—will her parents divorce, will there be money for school, will Kyle be the boy of her dreams, will she ever make enough cash to repay her parents for her upbringing?—but Ronan keeps her nimble, sidestepping teen ennui with a complicated mix of snappy one liners, hard earned wisdom and a well of emotion. It’s tremendous, Academy Award worthy work.
The Post: Steven Spielberg film is a fist-pump-in-the-air look at the integrity and importance of a free press. It’s a little heavy-handed but these are heavy-handed times. Director Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are entertainers first and foremost, and they do entertain here, but they also shine a light on a historical era whose reverberations are being felt today stronger than ever.
The Shape of Water: A dreamy slice of pure cinema. Director Guillermo del Toro uses the stark Cold War as a canvas to draw warm and vivid portraits of his characters. It’s a beautiful creature feature ripe with romance, thrills and, above all, empathy for everyone. This is the kind of movie that reminds us of why we fell in love with movies in the first place.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The story of a mother’s unconventional war with the world is simple enough, it’s the complexity of the characters that elevates the it to the level of great art.
Wonder Woman: Equal parts Amazon sword and sandal epic, mad scientist flick, war movie and rom com, it’s a crowd pleaser that places the popular character front and centre. As played by Gal Gadot, Diana is charismatic and kick ass, a superhero who is both truly super and heroic. Like Superman she is firmly on the side of good, not a tortured soul à la Batman. Naïve to the ways of the world, she runs headfirst into trouble. Whether she’s throwing a German tank across a battlefield, defying gravity to leap to the top of a bell tower, tolerating Trevor’s occasional mansplaining or deflecting bullets with her indestructible Bracelets of Submission, she proves in scene after scene to be both a formidable warrior and a genuine, profoundly empathic character.
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Welcome to the House of Crouse. We welcome two film directors to sit a spell at the HoC today. William Friedkin is a legend, the director of The Exorcist and The French Connection among many others. We don’t talk about those. Instead I asked him about one the most trangressive movies ever made, The Devils. Listen in to hear his opinion on why naked nuns may have cost Ken Russell a box office hit. Then Christopher Nolan brings his big brain over to talk about Dunkirk and why cinema matters. It’s good stuff, swing by.
A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Dunkirk,” the year;’s first serious Oscar Best Picture contender, Luc Besson’s retina frying “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “Dunkirk,” the year;’s first serious Oscar Best Picture contender, Luc Besson’s retina frying “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including Christopher Nolan’s true-life war film “Dunkirk,” Luc Besson’s eye scorching “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
Director Christopher Nolan doesn’t remember the first time he was told about the events at Dunkirk.
“Like most British people I have grown up with this story,” Nolan says.
The first minutes of Dunkirk, Nolan’s big-screen adaptation of the evacuation of 400,000 soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, sets the stage. Early on in the Second World War the German army had driven the British, Belgian and Canadian armies to the sea.
“Dunkirk is where they will meet their fate,” the opening reads. “They are hoping for deliverance, hoping to find a miracle.” Between May 26 and June 4, 1940, allied soldiers were evacuated from the beset beach in Operation Dynamo.
“The resonance of the Dunkirk story to me has always been about a sense of communal heroism,” Nolan says, referring to the “little ships of Dunkirk,” a makeshift flotilla of hundreds of fishing boats, pleasure crafts and lifeboats called into service to aid in the evacuation.
“When I think about it now I realize we live in a time that bizarrely fetishizes individuality to the extent where we don’t even require ourselves to watch the same news as other people. We just watch the news we want to watch and hear what we want to hear. That is how fragmented our society has become. This elevation of the individual has come at the expense of the community and what community can achieve. There needs to be a balance and I think Dunkirk as a story is a wonderful reminder of the power of community. The power of what we can do, not just as individuals but together.”
Best seen large and loud, Dunkirk succeeds as pure cinema with minimal dialogue and electrifying visuals.
“I love the great silent films of the past,” he says. “I think that is the closest you get to pure cinema. We are now able to use sound and music and all kinds of things to enlarge the idea of what cinema can be but I wanted to strip away a lot of the theatrics we use as filmmakers in the sound era. The reason is, Dunkirk is such a simple story. It doesn’t need to be over-explained. It doesn’t need any excess of dialogue. I like the idea of using the language of suspense because suspense is the most visually based and cinematic of the movie genres.”
Dunkirk inspired Winston Churchill’s famous, “We shall fight on the beaches,” speech, an address that describes reaching for victory, “however long and hard the road may be.” It’s a journey Nolan understands both in a historical context and in his own decade-long attempt to get this film made. It’s a movie he feels passionate about, just don’t call it his passion project.
“That makes it sound like I didn’t give a s—t about the other ones,” he laughs before adding, “I find filmmaking really difficult. Yes, it’s not coal mining but I find it tough. I love it and I love movies so I don’t ever want to do it for something that I don’t really, really care about. There are filmmakers who find it easier than I do and so ‘one for me, one for them’ works, but I want to do the film I would want to see as an audience member.”
“Dunkirk,” the new war epic from director Christopher Nolan, could be one of those rare movies—rare like a unicorn or a modest Kardashian—that comes out in the summer and earns a Best Picture nomination. It is a complete cinematic experience, immersive, intense showing us things rather than telling us things.
From its haunting opening shot of five British soldiers on patrol, propaganda leaflets fluttering in the air around them, “Dunkirk” establishes itself as a high gloss look at one of the seminal events in military history. A minute later when gunfire erupts it becomes an intimate, you-are-there experience, placing the viewer in the middle of the action.
Opening credits set the stage. In the early stages of the Second World War the German Army drove the British, Belgium, Canada armies to the sea. “Dunkirk is where they will meet their fate. They are hoping for deliverance, hoping to find a miracle.” Between May 26 and June 4, 1940 allied soldiers were evacuated from the beset beach in Operation Dynamo.
Using a fractured timeline director Christopher Nolan brings three different facets of the story together. First is The Mole, the long stone and wooden jetty at the mouth of the port where Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles) stow away on an evacuation ship.
Second is The Sea, and the story of Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), a British mariner, who like many others piloted his pleasure craft through dangerous waters to help transport stranded soldiers from the beach in France.
Third is the battle in the air, lead by Royal Air Force Spitfire pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy).
With a minimum of dialogue, electrifying visuals and ear-splitting sound design—the rumble of the spit fire engines will make your chest shake—Nolan has made a movie best seen large and loud. He uses the power of the image to create an immersive cinematic experience that offers up not only vicarious thrills but also ethical dilemmas, honour and personal drama. It is not a typical war movie. You never see the Germans and there is no victory march at the end. Instead it is a large-scale examination of the workings of war and warriors that blends epic filmmaking with intimate character work.
Best of the bunch are Cillian Murphy as a shell-shocked soldier rescued from the sea, haunted by what he has seen and Rylance who redefines stiff upper lip. The all-British cast of relative unknowns who make up the bulk of the evacuees shine a light on how young and inexperienced were the soldiers on that beach.
“Dunkirk” is an intense movie but it is not an overly emotional one. The cumulative effect of the vivid images and sounds will stir the soul but despite great performances the movie doesn’t necessarily make you feel for one character or another. Instead its strength is in how it displays the overwhelming sense of scope of the Dunkirk mission. With 400,000 men on the ground with more in the air and at sea, the sheer scope of the operation overpowers individuality, turning the focus on the collective. Nolan’s sweeping camera takes it all in, epic and intimate moments alike.
Dunkirk inspired Winston Churchill’s famous, “We shall fight on the beaches,” speech, words brought to poignant life in the film’s closing moments by Whitehead in one of the movie’s smaller moments. That speech describes reaching for victory, “however long and hard the road may be,” a journey brilliantly and memorably chronicled in the film.