There is no doubt that Uncut Gems, directed by Josh and Benny Safdie who also co-wrote the script with Ronald Bronstein, feels like the missing film at the Oscars. Starring Adam Sandler, the film centres on a New York jeweller and gambling addict Howard Ratner as he tries to stay one step ahead of a series of bad debts and terrible decisions.
Not only is this film one of the most anxious and compulsive cinematic journeys of recent years, but it’s also the one of the most complete. Every moment feels integral, as does the city of New York itself with its electric pulse and sea of humanity. On top of this the cast is phenomenal. Sandler, a constant ball of tension, absolutely inhabits the brilliantly named central character but the supporting players are all perfect. Particular praise goes to Julia Fox and Idina Menzel as the two women in Howard’s life, reflecting the conflict that your brain is going through.
This could be the film of the year and it almost killed me.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (M.C.U.), a couple of the movies are really good but it’s essentially a (admittedly well made) culturally imperialist content generator: racking up minutes and occupying multiplex screens. But when you combine the films with the Netfix Originals offerings, Marvel have, maybe inadvertently, created a rather significant and interesting gap between the two with the small screen offerings playing out as the damaged echo chamber of the film’s classic bants tinged mass destruction.
The films have obviously already started to react to the previously unmentioned mass destruction in very direct ways, the plots of Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice directly concern the aftermath of these cataclysm and the latter even seems driven to insanity, but they are still top down views. Films about billionaires, gods and Government operatives. Jessica Jones (2015 – ) is the view from the cheap seats. It’s a series that directly references the MCU, infuses everything it does with the shackles and scars of the past, and successfully grounds it by having real and unimaginable trauma as it’s main focus. It’s also infused with mistrust of motive and power and the superhero ‘powers’ are almost invisible until they are used in blink and you’d miss it moments or damaging frantic fights.
Jessica Jones is the best that Marvel currently has to offer. On it’s own it would just be a very strong and interesting series, with smart writing and great performances. With the weight of the MCU’s glib body count it’s turned into a diamond. I’ve still got two episodes to go before completing the first season, I might just cry if she starts wearing a costume.