Hats off to the streaming platforms for taking over the world, but thumbs down for doing their best to hide their programs.
Assassinate him? He’s AWOL!
Take The Assassination of Gianni Versace – one of the best TV series last year. Sure it’s not a Netflix title, so maybe it doesn’t care, but three weeks after releasing it, it was still listing it as new episodes of The People vs OJ Simpson. While a fair few might have clicked hoping to see a second season about OJ losing his civil case and getting 33 years for armed robbery, many won’t have twigged that the new episodes refer to Versace, S2 of the anthology series American Crime Story.
Meanwhile, C More always seems to be hiding movies. From Lady Macbeth to Detroit to My Friend Dahmer, I’ve lost count of the number of good films (The Shape of Water and Red Sparrow are recent releases) I had to conduct a search for on the site last year.
And don’t get me started on DR. A friend told me about the series Deep State starring Mark Strong, so I searched in its ‘Drama’ section. Was it there? Was it heck! I waited patiently, imagining it was delayed, but no … and now the first episode has apparently expired due to an understandable rights issue.
Of course, I’m a fine one to talk. Last issue, my pick was Paul Schrader’s First Reformed and ultimately it was a case of ‘first come, first served’, as the film was only on at Cinemateket. Including this nugget of information might have alerted casual film-goers that the limited run ended on January 19.
Need a dramedy category
Maybe I should have searched under ‘Comedy’ for Deep State. At the Golden Globes, we had at least three actors in musical roles (Freddie Mercury, the A Star is Born duo) nominated for ‘Drama’, and two in primarily dramatic roles up for Musical/Comedy: Christian Bale playing former US vice-president Dick Cheney in Vice (61; Jan 31) and Viggo Mortensen for Green Book (70 on Metacritic; Feb 21).
One is a depiction of deep-seated racism in the South, the other the tale of an Italian hoodlum chauffeuring a black classical pianist … given the themes, both films are more dramatic than comedic.
Still, you could argue this all day long. A comedy enables your cast to speak in an artificial fashion, punctuated by beats that give the audience time to laugh, but in the wake of mockumentaries like The Office and celebrities playing themselves like in Curb Your Enthusiasm, the lines are blurred. Maybe, we can forgive the Golden Globes this one time, providing they include a Dramedy section next time.
Strong roles for women
The Oscars don’t have that problem, and with up to ten movies allowed on the Best Film shortlist, The Favourite (90; Jan 24) and If Beale Street Could Talk (87; Feb 14) will be there.
Set during the early 18th century reign of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), who until this film was possibly the most ungoogled British monarch in history, The Favourite depicts a struggle for her affections between her closest confidants (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone). A delightful cast make this a glorious romp. Sadly for the Danish acting community, Anne’s husband Prince George of Denmark died before the events of the film, although he did make her pregnant 17 times. She died heirless, which might be why it is also listed as a drama.
If Beale Street Could Talk has an equally good cast, with recent Golden Globe winner Regina King the favourite to win the Oscar. A miscarriage of justice in early 1970s Harlem leaves a young mother to fend for herself, and director Barry Jenkins proves that Moonlight was no fluke with a tale dripping in tragedy that ultimately offers hope.
The wrong kind of chills?
The same can’t be said of Kursk (53, Jan 24), as most of us know how that ended. With a cast boasting both pedigree (Colin Firth) and pedigree chum (Matthias Schoenaerts), the critics have found the disaster film wanting.
Faring better is Arctic (67; Jan 31) starring Mads Mikkelsen as a man who must survive a snowy wilderness following a helicopter crash.
Peculiarly, another Mikkelsen vehicle, Polar, is coming out six days earlier on Netflix. It’s got nothing to do with Earth’s extremities, but its absurdity knows no bounds.
It is one of those fake-looking action films that should have been a cartoon, and joining their esteemed ranks is Alita: Battle Angel (NRW; Feb 14) in which the Luke/Neo/Harry P character is a girl straight out of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.
But if it’s cartoons you’re after, sequels to three reputable films – Ralph Breaks the Internet (71; Feb 7), How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World (Not Released Worldwide; Jan 31) and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (NRW; Feb 7) – should tick the box.
Ben is Back (68; Feb 7) ticks the box with its cast – Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges (the nephew in Manchester by the Sea) – but it would be a disservice to TV movies like OG (HBO Nordic from Feb 24) to say this prodigal son tale looks like one. If this tale of a lifer (Jeffrey Wright) on the verge of being released looks brutally realistic, it’s because it was filmed at a prison using the inmates as extras.
Several NBA stars play themselves in Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird (Netflix from Feb 9), an insider’s take on the game (nothing to do with Larry Bird!) based on a script by Tarell Alvin McCraney, a co-writer of Moonlight.
And Dan Gilroy, the creator of Velvet Buzzsaw (Netflix from Feb 2), has similar clout, as he wrote and directed the brilliant Nightcrawler. So while it sounds like a Final Destination for the art world, it is infinitely more with Gilroy once again hooking up with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Meanwhile, a quieter month for television sees Russian Doll (Netflix from Feb 2) give a flat party the Groundhog Day treatment; I am the Night (73; Jan 29 – no Danish release yet) goes all-out Zodiac on the Black Dahlia case with Chris Pine in the chewed-up journalist role; there are new seasons for HBO Nordic series The Walking Dead (S8; Feb 15) and 2 Dope Queens (S2; Feb 9) and Netflix pair Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (S4.2; Jan 25) and Star Trek: Discovery (S2; Jan 18); and BBC miniseries Black Earth Rising (Jan 25) and Informer (released) are worth seeking out but not available in Denmark yet.
So I guess I’ve started telling you about series the services don’t have – the exact opposite to them then.