Film & TV Picks, Week 40 (2016)

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I watch a lot of film and television so I figured I’d start writing up my weekly film and TV picks for Ribbons of Memory. I actually already log the films I watch on my Letterboxd profile, so head over there if you’re interested in the stuff I didn’t like enough to recommend. This week’s post spans my last fortnight of viewing and includes five movies and two documentaries, all of which are available on Netflix, Amazon Prime or BBC iPlayer.


Blue Jasmine

Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard
My Rating: 4/5
Available On: DVD/Blu-Ray* Amazon Video*

If I’m honest, I could take or leave the plot of Blue Jasmine – it doesn’t really go anywhere. Thankfully, Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of a delusional, narcissistic socialite’s fall from grace lights up the screen and leaves you wanting more. At a superficial level, Jasmine is similar in character to the iconic Blanche DuBois, but she’s actually a heck of a lot more self-aware which makes her repeated endeavours to punch above her weight all the more sad to witness. At this point, I’ll happily watch anything Blanchett is in, but her Oscar win for this performance was definitely justified.

X + Y

Director: Morgan Matthews
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins
My Rating: 4/5
Available On: DVD/Blu-Ray* Amazon Video*

X + Y is a very sweet film about a gifted adolescent with autism. Through his endeavours competing in an international maths olympiad we see him grow in confidence, find friendship and come to terms with childhood tragedy. This film contains the most accurate depiction of childhood grief that I’ve ever seen – it simultaneously broke me and left me elated, elated simply because it tackled a subject that’s easily glossed over and forgotten. There was so much in this film that resonated with me, but I think it’s a moving story in its own right – I highly recommend it.

Still Alice

Directors: Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland
Stars: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart
My Rating: 4/5
Available On: DVD/Blu-Ray* Amazon Video*

Still Alice maps a linguistics professors decline into the hands of dementia. It’s the kind of film that you know is going to be a painful watch, you know it’ll trigger any health anxiety lingering in your head; but you willingly suffer through anyway. Julianne Moore’s Oscar winning performance is the stronghold of this movie. The rest was quite beige and left me a little cold, but Moore repeatedly hooked me back in with her heartbreaking portrayal of living with this hideous disease. It will make you sob, but it’ll also make you re-assess what’s truly important in your life and that’s never a bad thing.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
My Rating: 3.5/5
Available On: DVD/Blu-Ray* Amazon Video*

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind plays out a romantic relationship through the memories of Joel Barrish as he undergoes a procedure to have them permanently erased from his memory. If I’m honest I found the whole thing a little trippy and confusing at first; it took me a few attempts to get into it, but when I did I began to love its innovative plot more and more. Ultimately it makes you reflect on relationships in a more positive light and tugs on the ‘didn’t know what you had until it’s gone’ cliche to great effect. Plus, a movie led by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet has to be worth a shot.

The Big Short

Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carrel, Ryan Gosling
My Rating: 3/5
Available On: DVD/Blu-Ray* Amazon Video*

The Big Short tries to explain the 2008 global financial crisis in an accessible, entertaining way. I should state that I have a postgraduate degree in economics; so for me, it was a bit like the skeleton of my undergraduate ‘Current Economic Issues’ syllabus thrown into a screenplay. While the explanations the film provides are basic, I like that it doesn’t shy away from delving into the actual economics of the situation. The subtext of The Big Short definitely takes the left wing moral high-ground which makes it somewhat biased and hypocritical, but ultimately it’s an easy starting place if you want to know more about what caused the banks to go under. Christian Bale performance as the manic banker who foresaw the whole thing also makes it well worth a watch.


A World Without Downs Syndrome

Director: Clare Richards
My Rating: 5/5
Available On: BBC iPlayer

This is an unbiased, exquisite documentary that doesn’t patronise the viewer. Stemming from the personal experience of comedienne Sally Phillips (whose son has Down’s Syndrome), it casts a positive light on the condition and delves into the morals of genetic selection. In exploring the tests available for early diagnosis and the case study of Iceland – where, in a given period, 100% of women who received a positive diagnosis chose to terminate their child; we see the moral dilemma facing women and its potential consequences. It’s a documentary that poses more questions than answers; but when those questions relate to the complete elimination of a strain of humanity, I think that’s more than valid.

Amanda Knox

Directors: Rod Blackhurst & Brian McGinn
My Rating: 3/5
Available On: Netflix

This documentary provides first person accounts of the Meredith Kercher murder case from Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito who were both found guilty of the murder and acquitted, twice; prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and Daily Mail journalist Nick Pisa. It highlights the astounding mix of police misconduct and media smearing (Pisa comes across particularly badly) that hindered the case from achieving legal justice for so long. Overall, I think it could have tied everything together more coherently, Knox and Solelcito’s accounts of the aftermath of the murder left a lot of questions unanswered, but it’s well worth a watch if you have any interest in this case.

So there we have it, my first post of film and TV picks. I’d love to hear your opinions on these film and documentaries, as well as any recommendations of your own!

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