A week in film – 2017, week 7

Finally, I’ve started actually using at least one of the two-plus-hour train journeys I have every fortnight or so for the very task I vowed to do this year. These journeys are basically the perfect amount of time to fit most films, and Netflix adding its download feature has been a godsend for that. I have no excuse to not watch new things! Hooray!

This week I noticed that I downloaded Barry a few weeks back, and decided that no time was better than the present to watch it. Vikram Gandhi’s film covers a brief window in the life of Barack Obama, focusing on some of his time at Columbia University. Although, the film isn’t really a conventional biopic – it’s the briefest of brief periods, and it’s a very non-showy touch on the life of a huge public figure. Instead, Barry is more a consideration of race and identity. Its protagonist doesn’t feel like he fits in entirely with either Caucasian or African-Americans, and every time he’s asked where he’s from, he lists places from across the world. The character’s struggle to figure out where he stands in the world is the core of the film. The fact that he’s based on Barack Obama is almost irrelevant, and I do think you could happily watch this film without even considering it. Instead, Barry is a quiet, restrained, and interesting piece of cinema, and I think it’s worth taking to Netflix for.

Less new but far, far more entertaining (in a multiple-exclamation-marks kind of way) is Fast Five, Justin Lin’s ludicrous lease of life for the Fast and Furious franchise. I have long since become comfortable with my sheer adoration of the fifth, sixth and seventh Fast and Furiouses, even in the face of a lot of incredulity (everyone from my colleagues to my boyfriend have raised an eyebrow at some point). The naysayers, though, are often missing the point. This film isn’t groundbreaking, nor is it particularly good quality. The storyline is nonsensical, and the stunts are insane. But it’s so, so, SO much fun. Everyone (apart from Vin Diesel, who looks like he’s taking everything very seriously) seems to be having a whale of a time – not least The Rock, who gives the impression that he’s thoroughly pleased to be barking orders and punching people in the face. It’s this kind of ludicrous that I’m willing to throw all my weight behind. Sometimes movies have so much fun while being a bit rubbish that they make the viewing experience more fun, too. I like that this film contains a really long, huge-scale car chase with cars dragging BANK VAULTS through Rio de Janeiro. It is silly and preposterous and, hey, now I’ve even got my boyfriend on it. A winning viewing experience.

Otherwise, I’ve gone off on a massive US satire kick. It started with everyone on my timeline talking about John Oliver’s speech on truth in The White House, which lead to watching the video – and the full episode of Last Week Tonight – and it’s currently in the process of going through slightly outdated episodes of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I’ve never really committed to watching either before, but now seems like a prime time – I feel the need to laugh before the coming armageddon – to pick them up. Rather than burying my head in the sand, I’m getting little stories from here, and looking them up to find out a bit more. I feel a bit more like I’m paying attention to what’s happening and, while that’s partly horrible, it’s a good thing. It helps that teams on both shows are clearly enormously talented, and committed to what they’re doing. I also really like The Daily Show format, which it seems crazy that I didn’t know before – an address to camera, an interview (and I’ve learnt a lot from these five-minute segments), and close. I’m hooked on both. And, in the current age in which we live, it’s not like there’s a shortage of content to satirise.

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