Digital Gym Cinema is hosting its year-end FYC, or For Your Consideration, series highlighting films that are garnering attention this awards season.
'RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)'
"RRR" made my top ten list. It was just too big and too much fun to ignore. While the three R's often get listed as "Rise Roar Revolt" they also cleverly refer to the key talent in the film: director S.S. Rajamouli, and actors Ram Charan, and N.T. Rama Rao, Jr.
The film came out in March before becoming available to stream on Netflix, where it developed a global following. Digital Gym Cinema this week is bringing it back on the big screen, where it is best enjoyed. Although I doubt there is any screen big enough to contain this over-the-top epic.
The film has received renewed interest because India chose "Last Film Show" as its official entry for the Best International Feature Academy Award (each country is only allowed to submit one film for this category). India has not had a Best International Feature nomination since 2001's "Lagaan," so its film selection committee was probably thinking that "Last Film Show's" love of cinema, in the vein of the Oscar-winning "Cinema Paradiso," would win over Academy voters.
That choice initially seemed like a snub for "RRR," which is considered a Tollywood film since it was produced in South India's Telugu-language film industry. But ignoring the Indian blockbuster may have unintentionally given "RRR" a leg up in the race for a Best Picture nomination.
The snub has spurred a grassroots Oscar campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #RRRforOscars, and prompted a theatrical re-release of the film. While 45 million people have seen "RRR" streaming on Netflix, the epic action film deserves to be seen in theaters.
The film is deliriously fun, with each action scene topping the previous one with a new level of insanity. There are some troubling nationalist themes lurking beneath the glossy surface, but they’re easy to overlook in the sweep of the story. "RRR’s" maximalist filmmaking seems to celebrate the very power movies can have over an audience, so I can’t think of a better way to close out the year than seeing "RRR" at Digital Gym Cinema with an audience cheering it on.
'The Eternal Daughter'
At the opposite end of the cinematic scale is the exquisitely subtle, minimalist filmmaking of Joanna Hogg in "The Eternal Daughter."
I fell in love with Hogg's elliptical style when I saw "The Souvenir" in 2019. In that film, real-life mother and daughter Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne played parent and sibling onscreen.
Now Hogg has cast Swinton in a dual role playing a daughter and her mother. The film has the trappings of a ghost story with its foggy nights, eerily empty hotel and creeping sounds. But it is also a tale of grief and loss.
Julie has taken her elderly mother Rosalind to a hotel where she used to live. It brings back a flood of memories, some cheery and others not. Swinton is stunning in the dual roles and captures the emotional cadences of a relationship that can sometimes be strained.
It’s a very interior film, in terms of being both physically confined inside a creaky old hotel and psychologically trapped inside the daughter’s emotional space. Hogg endows the film with a seductively off-kilter visual style that conveys Julie's emotional state. But then it completely shifts gears at the end to reveal the twist (not a hard one to figure out) to the story. It’s a perfect film for those who prefer drama on a very human scale.
Equally delicate and affecting is Charlotte Wells' "Aftersun," a film that superficially seems to be about nothing much more than a father and daughter goofing around on holiday. But in the end, it shows the emotional weight of what can seem trivial.
Sophie (Frankie Corio) and her dad, Callum (Paul Mescal), are on a rare vacation together. Callum no longer lives with Frankie and her mom, and he's not a full-time dad. So he takes advantage of this time with Frankie.
"Aftersun" comes at us like home videos, then drifts into quiet scenes between father and daughter. It serves up both a coming-of-age film and a story about the adult Sophie looking back on these treasured memories to come to terms with her relationship with her estranged father.
It’s a beautifully constructed film made up of fragments of memories. Wells's style recalls the work of fellow Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay ("Rathcatcher," "Morvern Callar"). Both filmmakers are visually strong and convey a sense of poetry in their images. So much in their films is in what is not said but shown.
"Aftersun" is a promising feature debut from Wells.
Enjoy this trio of films for your consideration at Digital Gym Cinema.