A week in film – 2016, week 8

I said last week that I’d try and watch more new things – and more things in general – and I fulfilled at least half of that promise. Two new films, but essentially only those two films. I guess that’s some sort of progression?

The two films I picked this week aren’t exactly in the same league, either in terms of plot or critical regard. If I’d watched them next to each other, or even on consecutive nights, I probably wouldn’t have recovered from the shock of the contrast. Still, however sniffy I wanted to be about Chalet Girl, I was thoroughly charmed by it. Not something I necessarily (no, not something I definitely) would have chosen to watch myself, Chalet Girl is actually more sports movie than romantic comedy, as Felicity Jones’ Kim enters a snowboarding competition while she works in the ski chalet of some bankers. Yeah, there is romance – Ed Westwick’s Johnny, son of the chalet’s owner, turns up – but it’s certainly not Kim’s main drive. Objectively it isn’t a great film, with the plot moving so quickly in places (she’s a pro-snowboarder! They’re getting off in the snow!) that I thought I’d momentarily blacked out on a few occasions, but it really comes down to Felicity Jones’ performance – and it’s a really good performance. She’s usually engaging but she’s really fun in this, delivering a mix of snark and warmth. I genuinely really enjoyed it, and I’d use the gesture that I’m going to watch it again as an endorsement if this blog hadn’t shown that I watch almost everything twice.

Margin Call is a bit different, to say the least. Telling the story of a major bank at the beginning of the 2007-8 financial crisis, the film uses its characters to show the extent of the bank’s downfall, moving further and further up the bank’s chain of command from Zachary Quinto’s junior risk analyst to Jeremy Irons’ (very threatening) CEO. This isn’t a film that uses celebrity cameos to explain the nuts and bolts of the financial sector because it’s more focused on how the characters respond to it and how they, eventually, become stuck in the same patterns that lead to the crash in the first place. While everyone’s acutely aware of their reprehensible behaviour (almost every character has a line which shows at least some disgust towards the industry), by the end of the film barely anyone has changed – and anyone who attempts to leave can’t. Suffice to say Margin Call doesn’t deal with the horror by joking about it – even the photography, from the bank to New York itself, is cold – and by assuming you’re keeping up with the complexities of the situation (I wasn’t always) the film draws you along, compelling you to keep watching. It’d make a great double bill with The Big Short – although if I had to choose which one I’d watch again I’d probably go with the flashier, funnier latter.

Otherwise, though, it’s been another episode of Agents of SHIELD and an episode of Arrested Development. Still not a repeat, but not exactly new (I’ve been dipping in and out of it for years), in my attempts to figure out if I’d watched Agents of SHIELD’s midseason finale I accidentally read a whole bunch of spoilers – and it wasn’t even a midseason finale. Of course it wasn’t. I’m an idiot: one plot twist does not a major episode make. I was less emotionally invested to this episode because there was so little Fitzsimmons (one measly scene is going to have to sustain me for another week), but there were at least a few other fun things going on: Bobbi going back into the field, Coulson and Rosalind at the ATCU base, Hunter awkwardly getting in everyone’s way (and being the catalyst for my favourite ‘I didn’t do it’ joke of the week). It’s clearly trying to build to something – and that isn’t just clear from my unintentional summary sweep – and I mean, hopefully it’ll pay off. Who knows. It is Agents of SHIELD after all.

I don’t feel like I’ve watched Arrested Development for years, partly because the last time I tried to give it a full rewatch I didn’t really understand why I’d enjoyed it so much the first time. One night this week I needed a twenty-minute show which wasn’t anything too new and randomly settled on episode four of the first series. Aside from getting annoyed with Gob (probably part of the point of Gob), I did laugh a few times – mainly because of both Lucilles 1 and 2, who were always my favourites. Still, while I did find it fairly entertaining I’m not desperate for a full rewatch, which keeps me searching for a new twenty-minute show I can binge on. I haven’t had a proper new TV show for AGES. It’s getting desperate now.

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