Elvis (Amazon, HBO) Filmmakers just can’t seem to get enough of Elvis Presley as a subject. I wouldn’t describe this one as the definitive Elvis film, but it’s pretty good. It was a little too fast-cutting/super montage-y for my taste, but Austin Butler’s performance is uncanny. Enough reviewers have raved about it, so I don’t need to go on and on, but I must say there were moments where it seemed as if Elvis had Risen! The make-up artists are also incredibly talented. Tom Hanks and Austin Butler age and gain weight in an entirely believable progression. (if I thought they could do that in reverse, I’d spend my life savings to hire them). My Internet research reveals that some stuff in the film isn’t really what or how it happened and they tend to put a rosy glow on Elvis’ appropriation of Black music (eg BB King and he were not close friends as the film would have it.) But all that said, I think it’s worth a stream.
“To Leslie” (Amazon) If you haven’t been following the controversy about Andrea Riseborough’s nomination for Best Actress, here is a brief summary. “To Leslie” is an Indie film about a single mother with a drinking problem–a serious enough one that when we meet her six years later after winning a huge lottery, she has lost it all. She is an unrepentant, unlikeable, narcissistic alcoholic and Riseborough plays her well–she even does a great Texan accent (I think she’s British). Allison Janney plays someone called Nancy who kind of looks around her age so I thought she was a bad friend. But after reading a review (a rave one, btw) it turns out that Janney is her mother. (not a spoiler–I think we are supposed to know that). The movie is pretty weak on many levels, and apparently not many people have even seen it, but the filmmakers did a grassroots campaign to get Riseborough nominated (calling high profile actors and others connected with the academy, urging them to watch the film, etc.), so there were protests, etc. There are a lot of good films about the heartbreak of alcoholism but I don’t count this one among them.
“After Sun” (Amazon. Apple)This is not a feel good film. In fact, it is heartbreaking. And I know some of you will not like it. But it is a subtle, intelligent and fantastic film . The pace is slow and in many ways it is a fictional companion piece to “The Super 8 Years”. The setting is Turkey in the 90’s where a young father and his eleven year old daughter are on vacation with an inexpensive tour group in a slightly run down resort. But the setting is also present day London where the now grown daughter is re-visiting that experience through adult eyes. Throughout the trip the daughter is making little films with her camcorder, mostly interviewing her father. We see the affectionate and loving father through her eyes as child but we also see the father and the way he hides his depressive state. This creates an almost unbearable tension in a film that on the surface has no plot. Filmmaker Charlotte Wells explores the way in which we may sense things as children but have no language to shape them into articulate thought. It isn’t until we are grown that the memories give us understanding.