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February 2012 in Films: Oscars, Leap Days and Cinema Galore

While I didn’t manage to quite make it to two new-to-me films a day in February, I did see a lot of great films this last month. I blame not making my goal on my roommate for forcing me to watch the first season (series?) of BBC’s Sherlock; although it was fantastic. That and I did a lot of re-watching of old favorites. I found in my mission to watch alllll the films last year, I missed re-watching films that were dear to me, so this year I am trying to balance my new-to-me watching with a handful of favorites each month. Along with many a-watching at home, I also saw thirteen films at the Castro Theatre (only two of which were films I’d seen before). I also saw a film at the San Francisco Film Society’s cinema for the first time ever and Wim Wender’s Pina in 3D.  The Oscars were a few days ago; I didn’t write much about them leading up to the ceremony and I don’t intend to write much after it. I have been pretty disappointed by the whole race this year. I’m mostly just happy for Christopher Plummer and Woody Allen. 2011 was a great year for film, not so much for Awards Season. Here’s hoping this year is great, both for cinema and the awards. As always, after the cut is a list of the films I watched and five favorites.

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Review and Giveaway: The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher

The upcoming release of The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep tackling the role of Britain’s first female Prime Minister, has increased interest in Margaret Thatcher stateside. Case in point, BBC America released their three-film set The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher this week. The set features three films from the BBC set during three specific eras of Thatcher’s life.

The first film in the set is 2008’s The Long Walk to Finchley, which looks at Thatcher’s life from 1949 to her election to parliament in 1959. In it Andrea Riseborough plays Margaret Roberts (who halfway through the film marries and gains the last name Thatcher.) The film plays almost more like a comedy than a drama. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing, though, because it makes the film more relatable for those who don’t know much about Britain’s political climate at the time. Riseborough is great as the type-A Margaret, whose only interest is “politics” and who proposes to a young Denis Thatcher before he gets the chance to do it himself. Actually, Rory Kinear as Denis was my favorite performance in the film. He’s simply adorable. The production design is top-notch and more than reminded me of the BBC’s recent period series The Hour.

The second film in the set is 2002’s The Falklands Play, which is set in 1983 and features Patricia Hodge as Thatcher. I must admit this film lost me a bit. I don’t know much about this era or the Falklands war (aside from what I learned from This Is England) and I’m not sure the film has much appeal to people who aren’t military history buffs and/or live and breathe political thrillers.

The last film in the set is 2009’s Margaret, which mostly takes place during the waning days of Thatcher’s post as Prime Minster, though it does occasionally jump back in time to when she was first elected. Lindsay Duncan plays Thatcher in this film with such assurance and explosive vigor, that it’s clear why she was known as “The Iron Lady”. No matter how you might feel about Thatcher’s politics, I think you’ll be hard-pressed not to be a little moved by the film’s last fifteen minutes, as Duncan’s stiff upper lip begins to quiver, finally accepting that the end has come at last.

You can find the 2-disc DVD  set on sale now at the BBC America shop.

I’ve actually got a copy to give away to one lucky reader, so leave a comment (don’t forget to include a way for me to contact you so I can mail it to you should you win!) and I’ll pick someone at random next Wednesday.

[edit] Congrats to Megan, winner of this giveaway!