Wonder Boys (2000)

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Michael Chabon’s droll campus novel of dejected one hit wonder creative writing professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) gets a funny and tender adaptation from the late Curtis Hanson and writer Steve Kloves. James Leer (Tobey Maguire) is the weird and ubertalented student whose work is stupendously impressive so when agent Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey Jr) arrives at a college event for aspiring authors he immediately transfers his affection from his transvestitite companion to this new kid on the block and a raucous weekend on and off campus ensues. At a party given by the Chancellor Sara Gaskell (Frances McDormand) – who happens to be Grady’s mistress – and her husband Walter (Richard Thomas) a valuable piece of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia is stolen,  the family dog is shot and the body hidden in a trunk, and tension rattles when Sara reveals she’s pregnant by Grady, whose wife has taken off to her parents’. Grady thinks James is a suicide risk so keeps him with him – along with the dead dog. It eventually dawns on him that James is a compulsive liar and a total liability. His fellow student Hannah (Katie Holmes) has a thing for Grady but he’s not into her which makes life at his house tricky – she’s renting a room there. Walter sends the police for James when he figures where the MM goods have gone. What happens to Grady’s new book manuscript and the car is just cringeworthy … This is so great in every department – the very texture of the emotions is in every gesture and expression, something that occurs when writing, performance and staging are in perfect sync. Hilarious, compassionate and endlessly watchable. And for anyone looking to complete their picture collection of Michael Douglas’ abject masculinity on film, there’s the image of him standing on the porch in a woman’s dressing gown – something to knock that Basic Instinct v-neck into a cocked hat. Cherishable.


Groundhog Day (1993)

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It’s no accident that weatherman Phil Connors shares his name with the beaver that surfaces (or not) every February 2nd to forecast the end of winter:  Punxsutawney Phil is a metaphor for the crisis besetting a man whose cynicism needs a serious reboot. He relives the same day. Over and over again. The irony for the viewer is that the more often you see this film, the repetition becomes more meaningful, the karma more poetic, the lessons more refined. A work of utterly incomparable comic genius approaching philosophical brilliance, written and directed by the late, great Harold Ramis from a story by Danny Rubin. Simply classic.

Concussion (2015)

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How ironic that a movie whose tagline is ‘Tell the truth’ should have coasted on a wave of controversy because Will Smith (a Black actor, apparently it’s not enough just to be an actor any more) wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award. The truth is, this part-biopic of a forensic pathologist who linked neurological disorders similar to Alzheimer’s in NFL players to injuries they sustained during games is hackneyed and dull. Smith is unconvincing and his accent is distracting. And the whole unfolding of the one man against the system plot is about as predictable as an episode of General Hospital. This could have been made as a thriller and it would have worked a lot better. Frankly I feel like I’ve been hit over the head with a broom. There are some good supporting performances but they’re only by actors, not Black actors. Hey – can I get an award for being Black? I do hope I am not discriminated against for being white!  And hey, don’t let my being female put you off! I’m better than any man in the room! Sometimes you have to make a good film and give a good performance to be nominated. It’s not enough to show up.You know I’m right! It’s all in the title, really. Yawn.