Angry Bafta mask - angry movies for this year's Baftas


We live in angry times, it seems. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I had a load of angry movies to watch for this year’s Bafta awards.

Now, I don’t mean the controversy over diversity, though there’s good reason for anger there too.

There’s no doubt that diverse film-makers and themes should be represented more strongly in the nominations. Though I’d argue you could blame the financiers more than the Bafta voters. (But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?)

In short, there were many reasons for reviewers and audiences to be angry this year. But there was definitely no shortage of actual angry movies.

Let me try to categorise (although you’ll find much overlap between the genres).

Angry movies

Now, as a Bafta member, I receive DVDs, downloads and invites for screenings for over 200 films. Obviously, it’s not humanly possible to watch all those movies and also do any serious writing, so I don’t pretend to be able to talk about every single one.

So (disclaimer) there may well be many sweet, soft, cuddly, life-affirming movies out there that I never quite got round to.

But there are certainly also many furious ones.

Angry movies and injustice

First come the very angry fighters for justice. Many of them African-American. It’s no surprise that black people have suffered grave injustices in the USA; but it’s perhaps more of a surprise that Hollywood has suddenly jumped on the bandwagon big-time.

For example (in no particular order) here’s Just Mercy. This is the true story of an African-American man convicted of murder entirely on the dubious testimony of a highly unreliable felon, who’d been offered a lighter sentence in exchange. His fight to avoid execution is blocked all the way by the racists of the Alabama justice system.

Exhibit 2 is Queen and Slim – the fictional but highly plausible of two (yes) African-Americans who defend themselves against a racist cop and then go on the run.

While exhibit 3, m’lud, is Waves – an angry drama about an angry black teenager brought up by his angry father to believe that only fighting brings success.

Fighting the Man

The documentary American Factory takes us from African-Americans to Chinese. But in this case it’s the Chinese who are trying their best to screw both Americans, by offering low-paid, unsafe jobs in the rust-belt.

Corporate greed features again in Ken Loach’s typically acid attack on the gig economy in Sorry We Missed You.

Meanwhile, staying with corporate bullying, Dark Waters tells the true story of a small community’s legal fight against being poisoned by the Teflon made by one of the world’s largest corporations.

Oh, and in case you’re not angry yet, they’re poisoning you too. It seems Teflon is now probably in every living creature on the planet.

Anger against the State

Then there’s the state itself. You can choose between ratcheting up the fury with Keira Knightley in Official Secrets, exposing how the UK and US governments tried to blackmail UN diplomats into supporting the Iraq war…

…Or, if you prefer, Adam Driver in The Report fighting to expose the CIA’s use of torture.

Then, don’t get me started on the media. Oh, the media!

What about Richard Jewell – Clint Eastwood’s dramatisation of the heroic-but-dim saviour whose alertness massively reduced the deaths and injuries in the Atlanta bombing – only to be subjected to trial by media when they decided he must have planted the bomb himself in order to get himself a medal.

And Bombshell – also a true story, based upon the accounts of several women at Fox News whose careers depended on whether they gave sexual favours to their boss Roger Ailes.

(Interestingly, in the context of anger and violence, this is the second film called Bombshell in two years).

And I haven’t even touched on Joker (anger among comic-book supervillains); Monos (angry teenage guerillas); and Marriage Story (Adam Driver, again, with Scarlett Johansson in the angry story of a divorce)

Of course, there may be even more sinister reasons why we’re all so angry – see possibly the angriest film of them all – The Great Hack.

This riveting and incendiary documentary traces how Facebook and Cambridge Analytica set out to promote anger and dissent, in order to manipulate democratic votes across the world, including (but by no means limited to) the 2016 UK Brexit vote and US Presidential Election.

Light in the darkness

OK, you may say. But surely there have been some moments of sweetness and light. And yes, there have.

I have fond memories of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Here we get to spend time with the almost impossibly saintly television icon Fred Rogers. (If you’re not American, think Blue Peter as presented by Gandhi).

And there’s Klaus – an exquisitely drawn animation that tells how Santa Claus got to be Santa Claus, with the help of a lazy and over-indulged young postman.

However, I’d be very surprised if they win anything. And if that doesn’t make you angry, nothing will.

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