Crime, action, and Jamie Foxx, Baby Driver (2017) is without a doubt the best film I’ve seen this year. Every single part of the film is artistically and cinematically perfect.
After being forced into working for a crime boss, ‘Baby’ (Ansel Elgort) is led into the life of a getaway car driver. From the first scene his character is quiet and intricate, with a love for music and driving. Having only seen Ansel in films such as The Fault in Our stars (2014) and Divergent (2014) I wasn’t sure how the drama and romance would fit into this crime thriller but he executed it perfectly.
One of my favourite aspects of the film was the way they integrated the use of sound and music. Due to a ringing in his ears Baby listens to music almost 24/7 and Wright has managed to use this completely to his advantage. It becomes almost a personal connection with Baby and the audience with the diegetic and non-diegetic sound as only Baby and us can hear what he is listening to and how this affects the scene. One of my favourite uses of this was in fight scenes as the gun shots were matched with the beat and rhythm of the music. I had never seen this used in a film before and it worked effortlessly, making everything about the scene so much more exciting.
Each of the characters within the film are built beautifully. For example the criminals that he works with, such as the couple ‘Darling’ (Eiza Gonzalez) and ‘Buddy’ (John Hamm) who have a Bonnie and Clyde relationship, Jamie Foxx’s character ‘Bats’ an unstable and reckless criminal. Along with the big boss ‘Doc’ played by Kevin Spacey who has a soft spot for ‘Baby’ and his love interest ‘Debora’.
Normally, I find love stories in films boring and unnecessary, however I couldn’t help but root for ‘Debora’ and ‘Baby’. The integration of the music again worked well but I thought the scenes of them together were adorable and the use of montages and camera movements made their time together seem exciting and real.
Overall, this film is unlike any I have seen before. It is a unique blend of an amazing storyline with the cinematography and sound to match. It used humour, excitement and thrill leaving no boring moments and it is genuinely one of the best films I’ve seen.
Thursday – Medicine For Melancholy
After seeing Moonlight I was intrigued to look at some more of Barry Jenkin’s films and Medicine For Melancholy is the only other film he is well-recognised for. Released in 2008 it is a low budget romantic film about a one-day romance between Micah and Jo, although it is not much of a happy love-story Jenkin’s has chosen to shine a light on particular issues when it comes to interracial relationships and indie culture.
The film opens with Micah and Jo awkwardly leaving a house party after their one night stand, with Jo wanting nothing to do with Micah and him wanting the opposite, their romance begins. Race is involved throughout the film as Micah’s sultry character makes many comments about race in the city of San Francisco and it soon becomes clear that he has an issue with interracial relationships whether it be due to his ending or in general but Jo is affected by this as her boyfriend is white. Later on in their day together they go to an indie rock bar and after this Micah states his issue with the indie subculture and the separation of black people from the culture, Jenkin’s once again brings an underlying issue in black culture to the table.
The colour of the film is dim throughout, almost black and white which killed my optimism of Jo and Micah being together and making me have no choice but to view their situation as dim and hopeless. In Moonlight I noticed that a short montage was made for Kevin’s character in which he breaks the fourth wall and looks directly into the camera and I also noticed it in this film when Micah talks of his profession in the fish tank industry and he looks directly into the camera. I’m not sure why Jenkin’s includes this in his films, but I think it makes the audience feel more personally involved with the character. Jenkin’s has created an interesting, yet quite draining romance with important underlying messages about the relationship between black and white culture.
Wednesday – Django Unchained
Django Unchained (2012) is a film I should have seen a long time ago. This Western film is set in the American South and follows the story of Django, a slave who is freed by Bounty Hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to find some wanted men, and the two soon become good friends. Tarantino’s film is worth the whole 2 and a half hours, he depicts the times of slavery with no sugar-coating and gives us this new heroic character of Django who is fighting to alongside Schultz to free his wife.
The plot of the film is perfect, and complimented with the soundtrack and careful editing and mise-en-scene it is impossible to get bored. The main song for the soundtrack being Django’s theme-song, which is catchy and Westernised but I also thought that the use of John Legend on the soundtrack made it more modernised along with the modern way that the film had been made.
Jamie Foxx is perfect for the role of Django, adding the right amount of comedy and to the character, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio with his effortless performance as the owner of ‘Candyland’ a huge plantation, with Samuel L. Jackson playing his house slave Stephen, a hated character with the humour of Samuel shining through. This is an amazing film which I could watch 10 times over and still enjoy, and I really shouldn’t have waited this long to watch it.
Tuesday – Moonlight
After watching the Oscars and seeing Moonlight snatch the Best Picture award from La La Land, a huge Hollywood musical success I knew that I needed to see it for myself. This film is genuinely the first of its own, a deeply sad and thought-provoking film about a young black boy dealing with his sexuality in a way that I’ve never seen before. Every element of the film is well thought-through and artistic. The soundtrack works perfectly with the strings complimenting the scenes of his childhood to adolescence and from the outset and throughout I felt embellished into his story. Mahershala Ali’s character plays Chiron’s guardian throughout his younger years leading to the beautiful scene in the ocean where he teaches him how to swim. Janelle Monáe also features in the film playing Mahershala’s girlfriend, again showcasing her acting abilities.
The artistic elements were also shown in the fact that the film was split into 3 parts: Little, Chiron and Black, with 3 different actors doing an amazing job at maintaining the personality of Chiron through his life stages. Interestingly, the 3 actors didn’t actually meet until the film was finished allowing each of them to portray Chiron as their own. Also one of my favourite things I found out after watching the film is that they are all part of the new Calvin Klein campaign. I highly recommend watching this film, not just for the storyline but for all of the artistic elements and effort that has been put in.
With Black History Month ending at such a high from the amazing Oscar results I wanted to celebrate black film myself by watching a film a day for a week which either celebrates black history or has a black director.
I started on a highly anticipated film this year with great reviews and a great story…
Monday – Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures released this February reveals the story of Katherine G. Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe), three unbelievable smart women who worked for NASA in the 60’s.
The film shows their struggle with equality in the workplace during the times of segregation and how these amazing women are able to work past this and overcome almost every obstacle they face. One of the most memorable scenes that I have also seen trending on Twitter is Taraji’s speech when after she is confronted for taking a 40 minute break when she was actually travelling to use the ‘coloured’ bathroom.
All three of the women in the film are inspirational and this was also the first film I had seen Janelle Monáe act in and after listening to her music it is clear she is a triple threat with her music also featuring on the soundtrack. The love story with Mahershala Ali’s character Jim Johnson compliments the film keeping a light-hearted tone throughout, however maintaining its clear message, if you believe you can achieve. Visually the film is perfect with the 60s flair of colour coming through the scenes of the women together and in scenes with family, also the use of Pharrell on the soundtrack I found really effective, with the most memorable song being ‘Runnin’ as its used in the comedic scenes of Katherine running to the bathroom.
The happy ending was what really moved me when the real pictures of the women and what they achieved were shown. Hidden Figures is well deserving of its multitude of Awards and is definitely going down as one of my favourites.