A week in film – 2016, week 39

It’s been a really quiet week for me, movie-wise. A whole other bunch of stuff going on has kept my mind elsewhere – which is annoying as much as anything else, as there’s no doubt that actually sitting down and watching stuff is one of the best ways of relaxing there is. Still, when I actually did get around to sitting in front of a TV screen I’ve managed to revisit some faves, so there’s that. This week hasn’t been a complete cinematic bust.

I repeatedly have a debate on this very blog about my favourite series finales of The West Wing. I can never usually decide properly between ‘Two Cathedrals’, which is objectively fantastic (and may be the greatest episode of anything ever), or the finale of the fourth, which is horrifying and dramatic and stresses me out every time. But I feel, after this weekend, that an argument needs to be made for the finale of the first. To my mind, this episode introduces one of The West Wing’s favourite formats – a scene which sets up a particular result, the credits, and then flashes back to days or hours earlier. This episode takes that and runs with it – starting with the President leaving an event in Rosslyn, Virginia, before something terrible happens, and then jumping back to twelve hours before and various problems with a space shuttle and a fighter pilot missing in Iraq. Then again, though, this episode is almost made particularly great by the opening of the second season – an amazing two-parter dealing with the fallout of the finale, and going one step further by flashing back three years. The flashbacks are all wonderful, showing how the staffers ended up working for President Bartlet, and the present day story is moving and compelling. The West Wing can make a finale, let’s be honest.

Then there’s Man Up, one of the only rom-coms I voluntarily watch and enjoy often. The genre’s typically not for me, but Man Up (like all my other rom-com faves) has heavy doses of snark to go with its fairly inevitable ending. I really enjoy this film. I love that the characters all seem real, despite the outlandish premise of the film (woman accidentally steals someone’s blind date after she’s mistaken for her), and have warmth and heart and squabbles like actual people do. I love that it’s heaped with cringe, but still manages to remain watchable. There’s also an amazing dance sequence to Duran Duran’s ‘The Reflex’ for no real reason – which, in my mind, is the mark of a good film (basically, if a film has a dance sequence, a car chase, or dragons – or hits the motherlode with all three – it’s probably going to be a winner for me).

But finally, I’ve finally seen Captain America: Civil War again. After the midnight screening (and then seeing it again on four hours’ sleep), I felt slightly Capped out – however much I know that that is crazy talk – and didn’t manage to see it again until the Blu-ray came out. I still love it, naturally. I’m more convinced that I prefer Captain America: The Winter Soldier – certainly as a Captain America film – because it’s more my kind of tone, and the action sequences are better…until the Civil War airport fight, which is a gift to us all. The movements between characters, the physical and verbal interactions between them, the sheer bloody joy of seeing basically every major Marvel Cinematic Universe character up there on a screen together all make for a really, really memorable scene – and one of the studio’s best to date. Zemo’s also their best villain in some time. It looks amazing, too. Honestly, this film blows all the rest of this year’s hero films out of the water.

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