Thursday, 22 November 2018

Critical Week: Eye on the prize

As awards season arrives, I have a lot of for your consideration screenings alongside the regular upcoming releases, which creates a rather offbeat mix. This week we saw Otto Bathurst's ambitious new take on Robin Hood, starring Taron Egerton and Eve Hewson (above), plus Jamie Foxx and Ben Mendelsohn. Pity it's such a predictable, uneven movie. Creed II was also a disappointment, especially after the high point of Creed. This one should probably have been titled Rocky VIII, because it falls back on the old formula.

Far more satisfying were Steve McQueen's Widows, a wonderful reinvention of the heist movie starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki. The Old Man & the Gun is a terrific true drama starring Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek on top form. And the Cannes winner Shoplifters is another masterpiece by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda. There was also the scruffy, rather awkward micro-budget gay wedding comedy The Rainbow Bridge Motel, plus two documentaries: the fascinating and beautifully assembled Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story, and this one...

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
dir Matt Tyrnauer; with Scotty Bowers, Stephen Fry
release US 27.Jul.18 • 18/US 1h38 ****

As legendary Hollywood party boy Scotty Bowers turns 80, he spills the beans on his decades of procuring men and women for the stars. These stories may be salacious, dropping some of the biggest names in cinema history, but they humanise these celebrities and finally open a door on the industry's long-hidden secrets. After serving in the Marines during the war, Scotty worked as a gas station attendant in Hollywood, where he stumbled into a network of closeted gay and bisexual men for whom he organised discreet trysts. While managing a team of rentboys, he met George Cukor then the likes of Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Cole Porter, Cecil Beaton and on and on. They had to hide their true natures due to morals clauses in their contracts, so they created myths and entered arranged marriages. When questioned about outing dead people, Scotty comments rightly that there's nothing negative about being gay, and it's no longer breaking any contractual agreements. In addition, the film outlines Scotty's childhood, including trading sex for cash from a very young age and being part of Kinsey's research study. It's fascinating to see Scotty now, chatting openly about his experiences and living amid mountains of memorabilia without any regrets at all. So the film becomes an important exploration of culture and history, as well as attitudes toward sexuality then and now.

This coming week's screenings are an eclectic mix, including Disney's sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mahershala Ali in Green Book, Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns, Christian Bale in Vice, Margot Robbie in Mary Queen of Scots, Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex, Alicia Vikander in Tulip Fever and the Sundance hit Eighth Grade.

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