So, I have been rather busy of late. In fact, life has generally been a bit crazy over the past nine months (that makes it sound like I’ve been pregnant… if I was, it was only ever with food babies), so much so that my cinema-going has depleted enormously, sadly. I would normally focus only on new releases in cinemas and only on the odd occasion would I review a movie I’ve watched via streaming services. But now that my circumstances are a little different, and not to mention the circumstances of movies being released on different platforms, I’m not sure how much will change in Dawn of the Tapes’s near future. However, I do know I’ve found a way to catch up on movies and not stress myself out too much about writing extensive reviews.
Perhaps I actually have been pregnant, because today I present the birth of Tiny Tapes Reviews, where I will just give a quick lowdown on thoughts of movies I’m catching up with on days that I’m able to binge a bit. I may make it an end-of-the-month kind of thing, where I can pour my thoughts out on any movies I didn’t get to fully review, but we’ll see how it goes. This is a test-tube baby, we’ll see how it grows.
April’s TTRs consists of: CODA, West Side Story, The Power of the Dog, Being the Ricardos, tick, tick… BOOM!, Flee and Spencer.
Director: Sian Heder
Writer: Sian Heder (based on La Famille Belier by Victoria Bedos, Sanislas Carré de Malberg and Éric Lartigau)
Cast: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durant, Eugenio Derbez
CODA is a slow burner, but once it gets there, it throws you in the emotional deep end. The first two acts stuggle to find their feet enough to really invite you in to more than just a teenager being a teenager, annoyed by her family who happen to all be deaf bar her. We’re given a lot of heart, however, and then the third act finally gives us the soul. The performances were fantastic and it certainly is proof that there’s room for everyone, regardless of physical ability, in movies. It certainly was a worthy Oscar contender, however I’m not sure it ticked all the boxes for me for it to be crowned Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Tony Kushner, Arthur Laurents
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno
An absolutely wonderful remake/reimagining of a fantastic musical. As beloved as the original 1961 movie was, it certainly had its issues, mainly surrounding the casting. Spielberg did exactly right by the characters, casting true to ethnicity. It was also great to see Moreno back in more than just a cameo. Elgort and Zegler are fantatic leads, but much like Moreno stole the ’61 show, DeBose steals it in ’21, landing her the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. The story was hard-hitting, with the race wars unfortunately still being as relevant today in many places as they were in the ’50s. The ending was as emotional as it should be, and Spielberg should be proud of his very first foray into directing a musical.
Director: Jane Campion
Writer: Jane Campion
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee
As interestingly written and beautifully shot as The Power of the Dog was, I don’t quite fully understand the hype surrounding it. Perhaps it’s more to do with how one relates to the themes than anything else. For me it was almost like a PG-rated and less satisfying Brokeback Mountain dropped in to 1925. Cumberbatch’s performance was good though not one of his top ten, while Dunst and Plemmons were marginally better, with their characters seemingly going through it much more than Cumberbatch’s Phil and Smit-McPhee’s Peter, which seemed odd, considering what they were themselves experiencing. Overall worth a watch, but it wouldn’t have been on my list for Best Film of 2021.
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale
The biggest takeaway from Being the Ricardos is Kidman’s performance. She embodies Lucille Ball so well, physically and vocally. The chemistry between her and Bardem as Desi Arnaz is electric, and prevented Ricardos from being a washout. The film can’t seem to decide if it is indeed a film, a documentary or even a mockumentary, or just a way to make some money off of the good Desilu name. The characters are written well, and we get a good glimpse behind-the-scenes of not just I Love Lucy, but the ups and downs of the love in Lucille’s life, too. It paints a good portrait of one of the most famous couples in Hollywood history, even if the framing is off, somewhat.
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Writers: Steven Levenson, Jonathan Larson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens
Much like CODA, tick, tick…BOOM! is something of a slow burner, but its head kept more above water thanks to the wonderful and thoughtful songs. Miranda proves his chops once again as a master of the musical, and Garfield surprises one and all by giving an epic performance with a voice I don’t think even he knew he had. Both Miranda and Garfield take us on a rollercoaster of a life, that life being Jonathan Larson’s, the creator of Rent who very sadly passed away the day it was due to be presented off-Broadway for the first time, ten days before his 36th birthday. tick…tick…BOOM!, created by Larson before he wrote Rent, is about his struggle as a writer and panicking about not having a Broadway hit before he turns 30. In hindsight, it’s a tragic story, yet so very uplifting in its own way. I haven’t cried that much after a movie since The Father.
Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Writers: Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Amin Nawabi
Cast: Amin Nawabi/Riz Ahmed, Jonas Poher Rasmussen/Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Another emotional stinger, Flee tells the story of Amin Nawabi and his family literally fleeing from Afghanistan in the 1980s and their struggle to find a place to settle, intitally in Russia then splitting up all over Europe. On a chance meeting with Rasmussen in the 1990s, they kept in touch over the years, and eventually Nawabi told his story to Rasmussen, the story he had kept secret all this time, all told through their own voices (dubbed into an English version by Ahmed and Coster-Waldau). The animation style is simple yet effective, something we’ve seen before with the likes of 2017’s The Breadwinner and 2008’s Waltz With Bashir. It’s an emotional ride and rightly deserved all its award nominations.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Stella Gonet, Sally Hawkins, Jack Nielen, Freddie Spry
‘A masterpiece’? I’m not sure about that, but it certainly wasn’t a bad semi-fictionalisation of one of the most beloved figures ever to exist. Many parts of Diana’s (Stewart) story were truly tragic, but Larraín also manages to indugle in some of the (possible) details that could have put a smile on the face of the people’s princess. Two of those reasons were her sons, Prince William (Nielen) and Prince Harry (Spry), of which her interactions with in this film are some of the best scenes. Larraín made some interesting choices, including comparing Diana to Anne Boleyn (and giving her some strange hallucinations involving perhaps the most famous of Henry IIV’S six wives), and focusing a lot on her eating disorder. Stewart has been lauded for her performance, and rightly so; it’s probably one of her best to date – and kudos to her on pretty much nailing the accent.