One of our finest film directors is returning with a new work later this year, and it would be a real shame if you’ve never heard of him. There has been a steady influx of first-time readers and followers of this blog most recently, thanks partly to social media(Facebook and Twitter, why did I avoid you so long…), and my broadcast reviews on the national radio program, “America Weekend with Ed Kalegi”. Welcome aboard all! And as a service to those not yet overly familiar with this site, I’ll inform you that “reviewedbymarkleonard” isn’t strictly all about film criticism. In fact, often I’ll preview an upcoming work, that most likely deserves your attention. I’m not 100% certain that the release will be any good in these cases…for that I’d actually have to see the film(or stage work)and provide it with a review proper. But if I present these “previews”, something has excited me, or there’s a proven pedigree, that lets me hazard a guess that what’s coming up…is going to be pretty darn good. Or maybe even superb. And the subject of today’s focus is the marvelous British film writer and director, Mr. Mike Leigh.
It’s been four whole years since Mr. Leigh graced the cinema screens with a new movie. His 2010 “Another Year” featured a standout performance from Lesley Manville(in a praise-showered role, that included a nomination for Best Supporting Actress from BAFTA, and a Best Actress win from the National Board of Review, among its many accolades), as well as garnering an Oscar nomination(for Best Original Screenplay)for Mr. Leigh himself–his seventh. Like I said, if you consider yourself a film enthusiast, you really have to become acquainted with Mr. Leigh’s resume. What can I recommend? How about 2008’s “Happy-Go-Lucky”? It placed highly that year, on my annual Top Ten Films list, and included one of the very best performances of that season via Ms. Sally Hawkins(in a Golden Globe-winning turn). If not that, try 2004’s “Vera Drake”, which sports Oscar noms for Mike Leigh’s directing, another one for his screenplay, and one more for Best Actress for the wonderful Imelda Staunton. More? 1999’s “Topsy-Turvy”(winner of 2 Oscars, and nominated for 2 more)and 1996’s “Secrets & Lies”(5 Oscar noms, including Best Picture, and one each for Mr. Leigh’s writing and directing prowess)are both incredible options.
But what if Academy Awards recognition isn’t what turns you on? I can certainly respect that, because more often than not, my favorite movies of any given year–don’t win a damn thing! In that case, I present 1997’s vastly underrated “Career Girls”, and/or 1993’s “Naked”, which absolutely wowed them at Cannes(Best Director for Mr. Leigh, along with Best Actor for David Thewlis)a couple of decades back. But enough about the past, let’s look at the present…and to the future! Leigh’s latest, “Mr. Turner”, stars the eclectic Timothy Spall, an astonishing actor, now appearing in his fifth Mike Leigh feature. Mr. Spall won the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award, for his work as Mr. Turner in “Mr. Turner”, which also saw Dick Pope being singled out for his excellent cinematography. Based on the true life story of 19th century artist, J.M.W. Turner, “Mr. Turner” arrives in the U.S. for your approval on the 19th of December. Mr. Spall is bound to impress–he’s one of my current crop of favorite performers(and no, to the curious, I have not seen even one of his appearances as Peter Pettigrew in the “Harry Potter” film series). Plus, any new film from Mike Leigh–is a cause for celebration. And the arrival of “Mr. Turner” is mere weeks away!