Thursday 17 January 2019

Great movies to beat those January, February, March and beyond blues

The party season is almost over, but there's a silver lining as 2018 promises a glut of quality entertainment

Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird
Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread
Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post
Gail Harris and Mark Wahlberg in All The Money In The World
Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Julia Molony

At this time of year, convincing inducements to leave the comfort of the duvet and venture out into the grim weather are few and far between. Thank the heavens, then, for awards season - perfectly timed to deliver you the opportunity to pass the time with all your favourite stars at your local cinema - from now until the first light of spring sets in.

Your first port of call for a stirring shot of cinematic amphetamine delivered directly into the veins comes from Anglo-Irish writer-director Martin McDonagh via his third feature film, black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, which hits screens on January 12. It's not the catchiest of titles, admittedly, but don't let that put you off. McDonagh's film is on a fast track to awards season glory, having already bagged the prestigious People's Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival in September as well as a string of other gongs. It has notched up six Golden Globe nominations, including Best Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress for leading lady Frances McDormand - who stars as a bereaved mother who will stop at nothing to avenge her daughter's death.

For an altogether gentler, more heartwarming comedic tonic, your best bet is to hang on until the 16th of the month and the release of Lady Bird. It's the debut feature from indie-arthouse darling Greta Gerwig, who writes and directs this "warts-and-all" account of late adolescence.

Saoirse Ronan, who stars, may have run into hot water on home shores towards the end of the year, thanks to a rather off-key performance on Saturday Night Live, but she'll be firmly back in the good books by the time this little gem hits our screens. She turns in a "stunning" portrayal "entirely lacking in vanity... acne scars, greasy pink hair and a peeling back of her spiky exterior to reveal the latent vulnerability beneath", according to Harper's Bazaar. She's been nominated for a Golden Globe, and an Oscars' nod seems destined to follow.

Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread

The story of the making of All The Money In the World (January 8) reads like a white-knuckle thriller of its own. When Kevin Spacey, formerly the toast of Hollywood, had his massive fall from grace earlier this year, he almost took the new Ridley Scott project he'd recently shot and locked - a thriller about the dramatic kidnapping of John Paul Getty III - down with him.

Overnight in October, Spacey's name was suddenly mud and his involvement as toxic as kryptonite. Instead of letting his film tank when the news broke, 80-year-old Scott took the quite insane decision to recast Christopher Plummer and re-shoot all of Spacey's scenes with just eight weeks to go before release. A gargantuan effort of nip and tuck took place and the eleventh-hour efforts seem to have paid off - All The Money In the World snapped up three nominations at the Golden Globes, including Best Actor for Plummer.

A Paul Thomas Anderson/Daniel Day-Lewis collaboration is a film-world phenomenon guaranteed to focus the attentions of academy and film festival judges the world over. And their latest, Phantom Thread, (January 12) all the more so since it will be Day-Lewis's last outing on the silver screen - he announced his retirement from acting in June. For his final act, he plays fictional couturier Reynolds Woodcock, a misanthrope whose creative genius is equal to his meticulous and obsessive control over his environment. Chaos, however, enters his world in the shape of a young Eastern European waitress named Alma. It's an exquisitely shot piece full of nuanced performances and emotional registers as delicate as butterfly wings. Oscar nominations all round seem pretty much in the bag.

Steven Spielberg's Oscar contender The Post (January 19) is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser of an historical drama, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as the Vietnam-era journalists who published the Pentagon Papers. "Set nearly half a century ago, but remarkably prescient in these "fake news" times, The Post is an engaging and masterfully acted tale sure to be in the running come the Oscars," says Empire.

For those who like to indulge their silver-screen pleasures at the art-house rather than the multiplex, and for whom subtitles are a draw rather than a drag, there are two films on the must-watch list in early 2018. The Square (March 16) is the latest film from Swedish director and arch-satirist Ruben Ostlund who made his name internationally with the Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated Force Majeure. This time Ostlund focuses the laser beam of his blackly comic, merciless storytelling on the world of contemporary art. The film took the Palme D'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Another award winner at Cannes, the French film 120 BPM (released April), is a gritty drama shot in documentary style, which follows a group of AIDS activists in 1990s Paris. According to Variety, it "melds the personal, political and the erotic to heart-bursting effect".

Gail Harris and Mark Wahlberg in All The Money In The World
Gail Harris and Mark Wahlberg in All The Money In The World

Even beyond the immense hype that is awards season, there are plenty of gems to look forward to in 2018. Visual stylist Wes Anderson's adorable looking new project Isle of Dogs is scheduled for release in April and features an all-star cast including Scarlett Johansson.

Also mooted for release in 2018 is the immense-sounding live action Barbie movie. The producers have scored the coup of getting Diablo Cody (Juno) to take on the script, "Diablo's unconventionality is just what Barbie needs. It signals we're going for a legitimately contemporary tone," said producer Walter Parkes. Certainly, if anyone can make the plastic blonde cool, Cody can.

Other highlights amongst the popcorn flicks next year include the last instalment of the Fifty Shades trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, which hits a screen near you in early February, finally putting the kinky-but-cursed romance between Christian and Anastasia to, um, bed.

It's been 14 years since the Pixar classic The Incredibles hit big screens, but the friendly neighbourhood superheroes have now been given the sequel treatment, with The Incredibles 2 hitting cinemas next summer.

Meanwhile, the credits alone of A Star Is Born will be enough to coax Bradley Cooper's legion of fans to part with their cash. He's written and directed this musical drama which also stars Lady Gaga.

'Fifty Shades Freed finally puts the kinky romance between Christian and Anastasia to bed'

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