The Danish Girl/ The Hateful Eight/ Concussion

A stylish biographical drama to salve NYE hangovers, The Danish Girl (January 1) tells the story of Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery.

When artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) asks husband Einar (Eddie Redmayne) to fill in for a female life model for a portrait one day, it awakens something in him. 

Defying the boundaries of 1920’s Copehangen, the couple work together to create a female persona for Einar, Lili, and in doing so, they must explore what this new person means to the future of their relationship.  

There’s something suspiciously emperor’s new clothes about the praise being heaped on The Danish Girl. Film-goers reluctant to seem stupid for finding it boring (it is) or over long (ditto), will no doubt lie and say they liked it for fear of disagreeing with Vanity Fair or whoever.

Though it is undoubtedly beautiful, visually sumptuous fare, it’s also sadly devoid of meaningful content. 

All fur coat and no girdle, you might say.
Next this month is The Hateful Eight (January 8), which Quentin Tarantino indignantly shelved (before almost immediately changing his mind) after the script was leaked online last year.

Set in the aftermath of the Civil War era, TH8 opens on bounty hunter John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell) – a man known for delivering his quarry alive – as he transports The Prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) through the snowy plains of Wyoming to the gallows. 

Before long they encounter The Bounty Hunter (Samuel L Jackson) and a host of other simplistically titled characters (The Sherrif, The Cow Puncher etc) who may or may not be intending to snatch The Prisoner and claim the bounty on her head for themselves.

I love and loathe Tarantino in equal measure; he makes decent movies then saturates them in tedious pop culture references and bits stolen wholesale from obscure samurai or western films. When it works (Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds) it’s great, when it doesn’t (Kill Bill) it’s as painful as one of his terrible, self-indulgent cameos. But which type is Hateful Eight? There’s only one way to be sure!
Ostensibly a sports thriller, Concussion (January 29) is really a frightening look at the “concussion crisis” in the NFL. 

For those unfamiliar with the current state of play in America’s football league, the impact of repeated concussions on the brain is a controversial and hotly debated topic.

When forensic pathologist Dr Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) conducts an autopsy on former NFL player Mike Webster, he discovers neurological degeneration similar to Alzheimer’s disease. So, Omalu names the deterioration chronic trauma encephalopathy (CTE) and publishes his findings in a medical journal.

In a scene straight from real life, a naïve Omalu, eager to inform the League of the risk of brain damage from full-contact football, brings his findings to an NFL doctor, who spells out the real truth. “If 10 percent of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport,” he tells Omalu. “That is the end of football.”

Omalu’s attempts to highlight the problem draws fire from the NFL who publicly undermine his findings to protect its business interests, while simultaneously waging a private campaign of intimidation against him. 

A truly fascinating subject – those interested in learning more should seek out the excellent PBS documentary League of Denial.


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