Review: Denial (Movie 2016)

An interesting dramatisation of the libel trial in which Holocaust denier David Irving sued American academic Deborah Lipstadt for libel.

In 1993 Deborah Lipstadt published the book Denying the Holocaust, an approachable but detailed discussion of Holocaust denial as a phenomenon and the major players in Holocaust denial circles. David Irving, a self-taught military historian with some scholarly reputation but also a Hitler apologist, objected to Lipstadt’s description of him as a Holocaust denier. As Lipstadt’s book had been published in the UK, Irving was able to sue Lipstadt and Penguin Books in a British court.

The film charts the course of this legal conflict with the ever capable Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and the ever watchable Timothy Spall as David Irving.

There are several good performances including Tom Wilkinson as Lipstadt’s barrister Richard Rampton and Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) as Lipstadt’s celebrity solicitor Andrew Julius.

Yet…although parts are both moving and informative, the film often lacks tension and real drama – in part because the reality is like that sometimes. An attempt to create some real tension over whether Lipstadt will testify personally (spoiler: she doesn’t) creates a weird arc which makes the whole film feel like its underlying message is ‘listen to your lawyer & barrister who are really smart men and will be proved right in the end’. Well, I suppose that is true if you are trapped in a complex libel case in a British court but doesn’t make for a good drama. So there is no High Noon showdown between Lipstadt and Irving.

Likewise, the long case – often caught in minutiae of whether Irving was simply mistaken on an issue or whether he was deliberately lying about history – does not play out along the lines of film courtroom dramas. Again, because court cases don’t actually work the way they do in film.

A good film but not a great film. A worthy attempt to dramatise an interesting and important issue but maybe not a story that suits the medium very well.

Link round up

Review: Doctor Who – Extremis

A cracking episode in which Doctor Who crashes a Dan Brown novel, has flashbacks to Missy being executed and then gets pretty damn dark. Did it all make sense? No, not really but really it had everything, including the Pope crashing Bill’s date.

The re-mixing old ideas continued apace in this episode. The virtual reality from Silence in The Library, a library like, um, Silence in the Library, religious orders, creepy monks, some sort of Pandorica like thing. The big difference was that most of the loose ends were neatly tidied up by the end. The plot holes were substantial but mainly irrelevant. We don’t know who the bad guys are but there is more of them next episode.

It does look like the three-parter, in this case, is three sequential stories with their own beginnings, middles and ends. This may prevent the usual problems with multi-part Who episodes.

You know what the problem with Jupiter Ascending was?

The plot and the dialogue? It looked nice and that was it. When I reviewed it I found there really wasn’t much to say but maybe it could have been more fun with either MORE wackiness or more jokes or in the other direction, a more serious plot or really anything to get it away from the point it landed that meant that it wasn’t serious enough or funny enough or quite enough enough.

So I was on the Castalia House blog – yes, yes, I shouldn’t do that to myself – and Jeffro apparently has discovered the answer:

“But the acting and the dialog is not what ultimately ruined this film. Structuring it around a female romantic lead did.” http://www.castaliahouse.com/spaceoperaweek-jupiter-ascendings-biggest-problem/

mmmmmm, nope I’m pretty sure it was the dialogue and the plot that ruined the film but do carry on Jeffro.

“This is an inherently anti-pulp premise that is being grafted onto an otherwise pitch perfect expression of classical space opera. Granted, Tarzan was Lord Greystoke. Arthur was the son of Uther. And Luke Skywalker turned out to be part of a space dynasty. “Who you are” does matter in these things. But what these characters do matters more. And these characters proving their worth and their mettle matters even more.

I don’t know why it is, but for some reason… the moment a male lead is swapped out with a female one, all of this stuff seems to go out the window. Men and women are not interchangeable. The stories that spring up around them are qualitatively different.”

But, in the film what the lead character DOES is meant to matter more than who she IS. Jeffro’s objection is based on the plot element that the lead character turns out to be (unknown to her) a space princess. In Jeffro’s defence, it is hard to tell because the plot is a mess but that all points to the plot being a mess rather than an issue with the lead’s gender.

Jeffro goes on to identify why the film falls flat at the end (I think it fell flat from the start but I’ll let Jeffro explain)

“And when you get to the ending where she is rollerblading in the sky with her space boyfriend, it’s pretty clear why: No one cares if a girl gets the guy in the end.
It’s no accomplishment to speak of, honestly. It’s normal. It’s reality’s default setting, and thus… conveys no drama to speak of. If a young girl is as cute as Mila Kunis wants a guy, she can have her pick. They will line up for her whether she is available or not. And the guy that Jupiter Jones gets…? The filmmakers worked overtime to establish that he was really more interested in getting his wings back than anything else. This is an anti-climax unworthy of space opera, pure and simple.”

The last time I discussed a piece from the Castalia House blog I was forced to wonder if the reviewer had ever seen any movies. This time I’m forced to wonder if the writer actually knows any women or people in general? Now, in Jeffro’s defence, I will note he has a point about the film: specifically in that the crappy dialogue and mess of a plot meant there really was no romantic tension – but that wasn’t due to some weird default reality in which stories about women finding love ‘conveys no drama to speak of’. I’m pretty sure that we could all name the odd story here or there or maybe THE BIGGEST SELLING GENRE IN FICTION which from time to time manages to somehow get drama out of women looking for love.

On the list of ‘things wrong with misogyny’, this kind of cluelessness is pretty low down but it aptly demonstrates a key element of it. If your understanding of 50%+ of humanity is so confused on such a basic level that you can’t even understand how there could possibly be drama in whether the ‘girls gets the guy in the end of not’ then your capacity to understand any human relationships are going to be seriously confused. It’s like trying to study mathematics while believing that numbers are a kind of gelatine desert – none of it will make sense and your kitchen will be a mess when you attempt calculus.