Eleven: Darkest Hour, Personal Insignificance, Turning 30, and the Glory of “Littleness”

I have been looking forward to Darkest Hour since it was first announced. If you follow Gary Oldman’s career as I do, you gather that the man seems to enjoy working more than he feels energized to gun for awards (see his recent films, Criminal and Hitman’s Bodyguard), so I was jazzed by the fact that this would be not only a serious leading role for Oldman, obviously, but also that Darkest Hour was to be helmed by an auteur. Director Joe Wright is known for his visually arresting filmmaking and has worked the awards circuit for over a decade thanks to his period pieces like Atonement and Anna Karenina. One glance at his filmography may remind us that Wright has a flair for the theatrical (and also the Keira Knightley, who, strangely, is nowhere to be found in DH), his pieces ooze with atmosphere and flirt with Sirkian melodrama (he also directed Pan, but we don’t talk about that). It was reassuring to think that a popular subject like Churchill would be in the hands of someone who might be capable of resurrecting him with the same liveliness and change of perspective that Wright brought to Pride & Prejudice (yeah I love that adaptation, come at me).

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that it sucks to be… panned.
  • Darkest Hour’s ranking on the Oldometer: 8/10
  • Gary Oldman character quality: Gary plays the iconic historical figure Winston Churchill, so obviously there’s alot goin’ on there. While the remarkable makeup deserves some recognition, Oldman gives his best performance here since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and he’s gonna get the Oscar.
  • Does Gary die in this one? No.

Continue reading “Eleven: Darkest Hour, Personal Insignificance, Turning 30, and the Glory of “Littleness””

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Ten: The Contender, Politics, and The Matter of Character

You hear the word “character” pop up often when it comes to major elections in the US. It’s a weighty word, and if you choose to use it there’s an awful lot of unpacking that must occur, especially in a political context. You run into questions such as how is it defined? Can “character” mean something different to opposing parties? Does it mean something different to every individual? Does it signal something aside from its typical use when applied to the government? How, exactly, do we demonstrate “good character” vs. “bad character”– can you have either and exhibit behavior associated with the opposite? Finally, and vitally, does character matter, and should it matter at all to leaders and voters?

  • The Contender’s ranking on the Oldometer: 8/10
  • Gary Oldman character quality: There’s so much to say about Runyon, the forceful Republican Senator that Gary portrays here. On the one hand, he is utterly the villain to the idealized Democratic Hero of the story, but on the other hand he is far, far from being one-dimensional. Runyon believes in his course of action and his definition of integrity as fervently as his opposition does, and I imagine if the story were flipped Runyon could be perceived as the hero who sticks to his guns. That said, in the finale of the film the screenwriting falls short and Runyon practically starts stroking his mustache and cackling, which is unfortunate, but he’s still highly memorable, and one of Gary’s most formidable roles.
  • Does Gary die in this one? No.

Continue reading “Ten: The Contender, Politics, and The Matter of Character”

Nine: Air Force One, The American Dream President, and Nostalgic Patriotism

Welcome to 1997! Bill Clinton is the real-life president, Hillary is dutifully performing her First Lady tasks, we have yet to experience the era of Marvel’s 500 Avengers flicks, The Matrix will not be released for another two years, Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford are our highest-paid movie stars, and the world is rocking its pre-9/11 vibe. Enter modern action-classic Air Force One.

  • Air Force One’s ranking on the Oldometer: 6/10
  • Gary Oldman character quality: Well, Ivan Kurshonov is a Heavy, in the style of many James Bond villains, and his aspirations are high (take down America!). He has no qualms about threatening the lives of little girls, either. Still, while the script doesn’t attempt to humanize Ivan, exactly, he’s hardly a one-note bad guy, and Oldman is mesmerizing enough to help support Ford in shouldering the movie, which is unusual for a baddie in a movie of this scale.
  • Does Gary die in this one? Yes! And how! Die, Ivan! Die!!

There’s almost too much to say about this masterpiece of a thriller, so I’m going to break it down.

Continue reading “Nine: Air Force One, The American Dream President, and Nostalgic Patriotism”