Who doesn’t love a good blockbuster? Big budgets, thrilling action, and entertaining set pieces will continue to drive audiences to the movies, and for good reason. However, cinema art can also provide us with great moments that capture our curiosity and spark our imagination. In fact, some of the most critically acclaimed movies of all-time, and many Academy Award® winners, could be labeled as “cinema art.”
So, what is “cinema art?” Frequently produced and distributed outside the major studio system on a relatively small budget, cinema art movies typically handle serious matters in an artistic and often experimental way, geared towards more of a niche market rather than for a mass audience. In an artform where social realism takes precedence, on-location filming is favored over studio sets and sometimes amateur actors are even used.
Stretching back to the origin of movies, the genre has provided some of the most recognizable and talented filmmakers in cinema who have put their uncompromising visions onto the screen with a unique flare and style that is all their own. Foreign language movies are also included in this genre, recognizable by many of the same features with the addition of subtitles, although rarely referred to as “cinema art” in their respective countries. Instead, they are more commonly known as “auteur” or “national” cinema, the former originally coined in France to distinguish filmmakers of the French New Wave (a movement and form of European cinema art from the 1950s and 1960s).
Below are a couple cinema art movies to keep an eye on this week as they debut in select Regal theatres nationwide:
Genre: Drama, War
Runtime: 1hr 59min
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Written By: Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Two young British soldiers at the height of World War I, Lance Corporal Schofield and Lance Corporal Blake, are given a seemingly impossible task. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.
1917 is the work of Sam Mendes and his many recurring collaborators, including DreamWorks Pictures, founded by fellow Academy Award ®-winner Steven Spielberg. DreamWorks has teamed with Mendes for three of the acclaimed directors previous seven features. Sam Mendes’ filmography is full of award-winning period pieces and thrilling blockbusters. Fresh off his work on the previous two James Bond movies, Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), Mendes revisits the war genre with another period piece in which he records his first writing credit, working with Scottish screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Penny Dreadful).
The strikingly beautiful images are a result of Academy Award ®-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins. After starting his career in documentaries, Deakins has gone on to shoot some of the most stunning movies of the past few decades, including The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Kundun (1997), The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Blade Runner 2049 (2017), and Academy Award ® Best Picture winners A Beautiful Mind (2001) and No Country for Old Men (2007).
Warner Bros. Pictures
Runtime: 2hr 16min
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, Rob Morgan, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Tim Blake Nelson
Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton
Written By: Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham, Bryan Stevenson (based on the book by)
Just Mercy is based on the powerful and thought-provoking true story of young lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his history-making battle for justice. Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs after graduating from Harvard, but he instead heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley. One of Bryan’s first and most incendiary cases is that of Walter McMillian, who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the main testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the ensuing years, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings, as well as overt and unabashed racism, as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds and the system stacked against them.
Fresh off his sophomore outing as Adonis Johnson in Creed II (2018), Michael B. Jordan stars as lawyer Bryan Stevenson alongside Academy Award® winners Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian and Brie Larson as Eva Ansley. They are led by director and co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton, whose previous movies include his feature debut I Am Not a Hipster (2012), Short Term 12 (2013), and The Glass Castle (2017).
In some respects, Michael B. Jordan notes that his preparation for the role of Bryan Stevenson did not differ much from his other roles. “My approach is to lock in and try and get the essence of a character,” says Jordan. He did, however, greatly benefit from having direct access to the man himself. “I was able to call or text Bryan and ask, ‘What would you do in this situation? How do you approach the bench? How do you deliver your opening statements or closing arguments?’ Having him to lean on for guidance was so valuable, just to be as much like him as possible.” Although having never shared the screen together before, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx share a friendship that goes back many years. “I’ve known Michael since he was a kid,” says Foxx, “so there was already that connective tissue. I’ve always been there to give him advice, which paralleled with Walter being the elder telling Bryan about how things were. So we definitely used that in portraying their relationship.”
Of his latest movie, Just Mercy, Destin Daniel Cretton says, “Bryan’s lifework shows us that one person who sees a problem and decides to do something about it can make a difference. And the amount of change that he has accomplished in his lifetime is pretty unreal. So in the movie we’re watching the genesis of a hero. That’s what it feels like to me.”