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Olivia Coleman in 'The Favourite' (c) Fox Searchlight

January Films: the Oscars are coming

4 January 2019 | Daniel Pateman

After a busy Christmas re-watching those old cinema Classics, film fans can feast their eyes on 2019's Oscar material, with Academy Award nominations due on 22nd January. Independents and multiplexes all teem with ‘Inspired by a True Story’ trophy bait, as Hollywood gets grittier than a dirt track in the outback. It’s a big month for movies – here are our ones to watch.

The Favourite was first out of the gate on 1st January, the hotly anticipated eighth film from director of the enjoyably absurd, Yorgos Lanthimos. Set during the reign of Queen Anne in the 18th Century, this royal romp is more head-to-head than tête-à-tête, as Hollywood heavyweights Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play cousins warring over the affections of Queen Anne. Olivia Coleman plays the monarch – all neuroses and ill-temper – with the role already winning her Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. Don’t expect historical accuracy, but rather a darkly humorous tale of jealousy and ambition.
 


Another mix of politics, biting comedy and biography is brought together in VICE, released on 25th January. Christian Bale piled on forty pounds to play Dick Cheney, arguably the most powerful Vice President in American history. The Big Short (2015) director Adam McKay marshals an impressive cast, including Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, to depict the political ascent of Cheney and his influence as VP during George W. Bush’s time in office. The trailer promises style, committed performances and a critical edge, with The Killers soundtracking Cheney’s self-confident, ambitious behavior with the egomaniacal refrain of “I’m the man”.


Image credit: Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures


The alternative title for this month could be "A (Post) Christmas Carell", as Steve Carell kicks off 2019 with three new movie releases in January. He’s the lead in Robert Zemeckis’s true story drama Welcome to Marwen, which is something of a cross between Toy Story and American History X (released on 1st January), and also plays a supporting role as Donald Rumsfeld in McKay’s VICE. Further proof that Carell can tackle drama as well as comedy is his turn as David Sheff in Beautiful Boy, in cinemas from 18th January. Based on the memoirs of Sheff and his son Nic (played by Timothée Chalamet) the film touchingly depicts Nic’s addition to methamphetamines as a young man and the gulf this creates between him and his doting father. While both have been praised, Chalamet steals the show with another exquisitely sensitive performance, giving an authentic, raw depiction of adolescent angst – arguably this kid could be the James Dean of our generation.
 


Finally, if you can still see through the award-worthy laughter and tears, Green Book rounds off the month, released on 30th January. The film charts the real-life relationship between African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his Italian-American driver Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), as Shirley embarks on a concert tour of the Deep South in the 1960s. Directed by Peter Farrelly, better known for gross-out comedies Dumb and Dumber (1994) and Kingpin (1996), the film evidences these mis-matched buddy-comedy elements, but applies them to biographical material, crafting a tale of burgeoning friendship and tolerance against a backdrop of racial tension. The Green Book of the title refers to Victor Hugo Green’s mid-20th century guidebook for African-Americans, which listed hotels and restaurants where they would be welcomed without abuse. Both Mahershala and Mortensen have received Golden Globe nominations, with Mahershala delivering a restrained and powerfully dignified performance.


Image credit: Universal Pictures
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