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Darkest Hour (2017) (1 Viewer)

Patrick Sun

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Darkest Hour - Gary Oldman is a shoo-in for a best actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Winston Churchill as England's participation in WWII in 1940 looms large... The film did feel like the opening act of a bigger story. Heh.

(Here's a thread for "Darkest Hour" as some of the discussion landed in the 2017 movie ranking through, or Movie Pass thread. LOL!)
 

Jake Lipson

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Yeah, I went a little off on this film over in the rankings thread. I hated it.

Thanks for creating its own thread, Patrick.

People do things in movies -- or at least they should. Two hours of watching Churchill debate whether or not to engage in peace talks was, to me, like watching paint dry. Nothing ever actually happens in this movie. Oh, sure, the situation at Dunkirk is talked about in offices, but if you actually want to see anything happen as a result of those discussions, you've got to go watch Dunkirk, which isn't meant to be an extension of this film but circles the same period of time. I kept waiting for something substantive to happen in the course of this film, but nothing does. "What happens if we do this?"/"What happens if we do that?" doesn't make for an interesting film, because you actually want to see them just do something already.

Gary Oldman is a terrific actor, and I think he did as good of a job as the material would let him, but a good performance does not make a great movie or even a good one. A good performance is simply a good performance, and here it's wrapped up in an awful movie. And even Oldman is guilty of scenery chewing, like in that ridiculous scene where he throws a temper tantrum because Lily James didn't double space his dictation. I think Oldman is overdue for an Oscar, since he's been so good in so many movies over the years, but I'll be a little annoyed if he wins for this role, because the movie he's in doesn't deserve to be awarded by association with him.

Also, I haven't got a problem with historical films embellishing a bit for dramatic license -- that's why they're produced as narrative films with actors and not documentaries -- but the scene of Churchill riding the train and asking average Joes their feelings on Hitler is ridiculous to the extreme, as is the idea that he would present such an argument in front of Parliament. If they're going to make something up, it should at least be good and reasonably plausible.
 
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Johnny Angell

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Yeah, I went a little off on this film over in the rankings thread. I hated it.

Thanks for creating its own thread, Patrick.

People do things in movies -- or at least they should. Two hours of watching Churchill debate whether or not to engage in peace talks was, to me, like watching paint dry. Nothing ever actually happens in this movie. Oh, sure, the situation at Dunkirk is talked about in offices, but if you actually want to see anything happen as a result of those discussions, you've got to go watch Dunkirk, which isn't meant to be an extension of this film but circles the same period of time. I kept waiting for something substantive to happen in the course of this film, but nothing does. "What happens if we do this?"/"What happens if we do that?" doesn't make for an interesting film, because you actually want to see them just do something already.

Gary Oldman is a terrific actor, and I think he did as good of a job as the material would let him, but a good performance does not make a great movie or even a good one. A good performance is simply a good performance, and here it's wrapped up in an awful movie. And even Oldman is guilty of scenery chewing, like in that ridiculous scene where he throws a temper tantrum because Lily James didn't double space his dictation. I think Oldman is overdue for an Oscar, since he's been so good in so many movies over the years, but I'll be a little annoyed if he wins for this role, because the movie he's in doesn't deserve to be awarded by association with him.

Also, I haven't got a problem with historical films embellishing a bit for dramatic license -- that's why they're produced as narrative films with actors and not documentaries -- but the scene of Churchill riding the train and asking average Joes their feelings on Hitler is ridiculous to the extreme, as is the idea that he would present such an argument in front of Parliament. If they're going to make something up, it should at least be good and reasonably plausible.
So governing is not doing things? You must have hated Lincoln.

Speaking of Lincoln, I had similar reactions to both movies. I got absorbed in the movies and I was watching the man and not an actor. Has Oldman put on weight or is the makeup that good? I could not see makeup.
 

Doug Wallen

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I really enjoyed this one. Historical movies can be so enlightening about past events. i used to teach history and I was always seeking out ways to bring history to life to spark my students interest. I realize it is not a documentary but I enjoy seeing excellent presentations of our past. Is everything accurate? Probably not, but I enjoy getting to see a more personal take on an individual than what is available through recordings or news pieces. I think the debates in this film explored many aspects of what government does.

Has Oldman put on weight or is the makeup that good? I could not see makeup.

I wondered the same thing. I also enjoyed Lincoln.
 

Wayne_j

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This was 2017's third movie largely having to do with Dunkirk. And to think when Nolan's film was announced I had no clue at all what Dunkirk was.
 

Jake Lipson

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So governing is not doing things? You must have hated Lincoln.

Not in a filmic sense, no. Movies are based around playable actions -- not just standing in a room debating what to do.

And I didn't love Lincoln, but I liked it way more than this.
 

Mark McSherry

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"And even Oldman is guilty of scenery chewing, like in that ridiculous scene where he throws a temper tantrum because Lily James didn't double space his dictation."

Except it's true. See second paragraph below.

"It would be pleasant to report that his relationship with his staff is genial, that he treats them as he would his daughters, and that he is particularly patient with new secretaries. In fact, he is nothing of the sort. He treats them like servants. A. J. P. Taylor calls him an “atrocious” taskmaster, and his attitude toward his employees is difficult to understand or, at times, even to excuse. He can summon each of his pets by name, recite poetry by the hour, and remember the exact circumstances under which he learned of a certain event fifty years earlier, but he knows the names of only three or four of his eighteen servants and stenographers. They are “the tall Miss with blue eyes” or “the man with ginger hair.” Newcomers find his lisp an obstacle—they simply do not understand what he is saying—but he makes no allowance for that. Chips Gemmell will remember that during her first session she “sat there terrified; I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, and I couldn’t keep up with him. I thought, this is a nightmare. This isn’t happening. So I went plop, plop, quite convinced it wasn’t real.” Winston didn’t read her typescript until the team assembled in the study the following evening. He glanced through the first two pages, his face passing through deeper and deeper shades of red and his frown growing more savage, until he rose, flung the sheets on the floor, stamped his feet, and screamed: “You haven’t got one word in fifty right! Not one word in fifty! NOT ONE WORD IN FIFTY!

"She froze. So did Elizabeth Nel, when, on the evening of her secretarial baptism, she found her machine had been set at single, not double, spacing. With Churchill rattling along, uncharacteristically fluent at this early hour, she had no time to switch. After she had passed him the first page, she will recall, “he went off like a rocket. I was a fool, a mug, and idiot: I was to leave his presence and one of the others was to appear.” Later she was given a second chance, and, still later, a third. She was understandably nervous, and “my apprehensions were seldom ill-founded. More often than not it would come skimming back to me with a few red alterations on it, sometimes to the accompaniment of remarks disparaging to my education and sense of hearing.”


Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Volume 2: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 (Kindle Locations 913-917). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
 

Mark McSherry

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What's the third? I only saw the two.

THEIR FINEST

From IMDB: "During the London Blitz of World War II, Catrin Cole is recruited by the British Ministry of Information to write scripts for propaganda films that the public will actually watch without scoffing. In the line of her new duties, Cole investigates the story of two young women who supposedly piloted a boat in the Dunkirk Evacuation..."
 

Josh Steinberg

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I saw this last night with my Moviepass and I didn't enjoy it.

I like movies about politics. I like movies about process. A movie on this subject matter should be up my alley. But this one felt a bit like watching paint dry. While I think the performers were trying very hard, the direction, script and editing all came across as lifeless to me. It was only in maybe the last quarter of the film (if that much) that I found myself caring. Gary Oldman is a wonderful actor, but if he wins an Oscar this year, I think it'll be as much a "lifetime achievement award" as it is recognition for this specific performance.

I can't remember the last time I went to a movie in theaters where I was checking my watch so often. I had gone in anticipating the movie and looking forward to it, and opted to see it over a couple other choices, even though Darkest Hour was playing later and would therefore be a longer wait. And yet, all I could think about was the stuff that I didn't see... I kept wishing I had gone to see Star Wars again.
 

Johnny Angell

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I forgot to mention that we went on discount Tuesday for Cinemark. It cost us under $12 for two tickets.
 

Jake Lipson

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I can't remember the last time I went to a movie in theaters where I was checking my watch so often. I had gone in anticipating the movie and looking forward to it, and opted to see it over a couple other choices, even though Darkest Hour was playing later and would therefore be a longer wait. And yet, all I could think about was the stuff that I didn't see... I kept wishing I had gone to see Star Wars again.

Amen.

I'm sorry to say you had the same experience as me.

Here, where reserved seating isn't an issue at the theater I most often go to, I very easily could have left Darkest Hour (12:45 start) and gone across the hall to see Star Wars (1:00 start -- I passed by its auditorium on the way to the one where Darkest Hour was.) No one would have cared.

I thought about it, but then I thought: I don't want to be late to my next movie (I was seeing Darkest Hour and Pitch Perfect 3 back-to-back.) I was afraid that if I went into Star Wars, the times wouldn't line up and then I would forget to leave for that movie and end up missing it or otherwise having my schedule thrown off.

Also, I want Gary Oldman to win an Oscar at some point -- he's been so good in so many things and I do think he is overdue -- but this is not the role. This is not the film. Give it to him for something that's really good. He'll be in something really good again soon. This film should not be his ticket.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Also, I want Gary Oldman to win an Oscar at some point -- he's been so good in so many things and I do think he is overdue -- but this is not the role. This is not the film. Give it to him for something that's really good. He'll be in something really good again soon. This film should not be his ticket.

On one hand, I think Gary Oldman is always good, so I don't want this to sound like a comment specifically aimed towards him.

But in general, I dislike and sometimes even despise roles like this, where you take an actor who has absolutely no physical resemblance whatsoever to the person he's playing (in and of itself, not a huge deal, and biopics used to do that all the time without thinking twice), but then bury him under what must've been fifty or a hundred pounds of prosthetics, makeup and padding. If it was so important to the film to have a Winston Churchill character who looked just like Churchill, hire an actor that looks like him. If it was more important that Oldman play the part, let him do it without being buried under all of that. It was one of the better makeup jobs of its type that I've seen, and yet, I was still distracted.
 

Jake Lipson

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If it was so important to the film to have a Winston Churchill character who looked just like Churchill, hire an actor that looks like him. If it was more important that Oldman play the part, let him do it without being buried under all of that. It was one of the better makeup jobs of its type that I've seen, and yet, I was still distracted.

I didn't have that issue. I might have if I was more engaged in the film, but it was so boring I couldn't really have been less interested in it than I was.

My issue is that there is so much good work being done in all different kinds of films these days, I feel like good work should be honored. If there is a good, worthy performance in a good movie, and also a good, worthy performance in a bad movie, then the way to decide between them is obvious to me: the good movie deserves the award.

Therefore, I'd much rather have Oldman finally gt his Oscar in the future for very good work in a terrific movie (which I am sure he will do again very soon) rather than rewarding a bad move by proxy just to give him what would amount to a career achievement award.

I felt the same way about Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. A good performance in a bad movie. Out of all the times they nominate her, why reward her for one that is in service of bad cinema?
 

Josh Steinberg

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I felt the same way about Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. A good performance in a bad movie. Out of all the times they nominate her, why reward her for one that is in service of bad cinema?

So many answers to that one. Meryl Streep is essentially automatically nominated for an Oscar whenever she appears on camera today. (If "Death Becomes Her" were released tomorrow, she'd get a nomination for that too.) She's certainly one of our finest actresses working today, possibly even one of the finest ever, and I think the Academy likes known quantities and name recognition and she provides all of that. And, once it comes down to a competition between five different films/people instead of hundreds of different films/people, she has a real chance each and every time to be one of those five. Throw in that many of the Academy voters are older and don't watch every nominated film, much less every eligible one, and answering "Meryl Streep" as "who was the best actress?" is a choice that no one will be criticized for or asked to defend -- so not in any way to shortchange her work, but if you didn't see any of the five Best Actress nominated performances from that year, picking Meryl is safe. Picking Rooney Mara, maybe less so. And, for better or worse, Harvey Weinstein produced the film, and Oscar campaigns were his specialty. We already know, thanks to the reporting from late last year, that he'd use all sorts of tactics to get whatever he wanted, and there have been examples given for how he might have given a book deal to a reporter that might have otherwise had reason to be critical of him. Is it so far fetched to believe that he'd put the same pressure on the people voting for awards that he'd put on the people writing about them?

And then throw in that her performance in Iron Lady is the kind of performance that the Academy loves, usually at the expense and exclusion of all other types of acting. She's playing a real person, a well known person at that, in a period piece, using prosthetics and makeup to perform as someone she doesn't really resemble. If you could write down a checklist of everything that Oscar loves to fawn over, that would be it right there.
 

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