Jan 142015


In cinemas this week: Birdman, Unbroken and Paper Planes.

Birdman – A captivating, awe-inspiring work that takes a fascinatingly layered narrative about an aging actor, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) attempting to finance, direct and star in his own stage adaptation of a Raymond Carver story and escape a career defined by one achievement. As he struggles to bring the story to life, he is suffering with anxieties of failure and a loss of purpose. Once the star of the blockbuster series, Birdman, Riggan walked away at the height of his fame in pursuit of other projects. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. Made to appear like it is comprised of a single shot, courtesy of the work of Emmanuel Lubezki, this is a technical marvel that features masterful performances from Keaton and the supporting cast. Conceptually bold and brilliantly written and directed, I loved everything about Birdman. Within minutes Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s (Babel, Amores Perros) film has done its dance and laid out its rules. If you let yourself get swept up in its aesthetic it will be hugely rewarding, and even when the story gets morose and odd it always entertains.

Paper Planes – Directed by Robert Connolly (The Turning), this is an imaginative children’s film about a young Australian boy’s passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. Ed Oxenbould and Sam Worthington star. The trailer reveals the whole story, but this looks like it will be quite pleasant and charming.

Unbroken - Angelina Jolie directs and produces Unbroken, an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII – only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s novel, Unbroken brings to the big screen Zamperini’s unbelievable and inspiring true story about the resilient power of the human spirit. Leading the accomplished crew is 10-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, while Joel and Ethan Coen rewrote the screenplay from earlier drafts by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese. There has been plenty of Oscar buzz about Unbroken, given the story and the pedigree, but reviews have been very mixed, claiming that the film hits too many of the cliche dramatic beats to fully resonate, despite O’Connell and Deakins bringing their full potential.

Weekly Recommendation: Birdman. What a film. 

Jan 132015


With the nominees in the 87th Academy Awards to be announced in the early hours of Friday morning here in Australia, I thought I would reveal my predictions as to who those anticipated nominees might be.

These predictions have come from a mix of influences – keeping up with the ‘experts’ tips, keeping tabs on the nominees and winners at the various critics awards and Guilds, and mere speculation. I have made my predictions 80% with my head and 20% with my heart. In a lot of instances I hope I am wrong, but even though I don’t particularly like films such as The Imitation Game or Whiplash I am convinced they are going to be a part of this year’s ceremony.

So, after the jump, check out who my predicted nominees are, with a series of alternatives (in order of likelihood).

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Jan 122015


Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel took out the top prizes at today’s Golden Globe Awards, selected by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Peohler – you can watch their opening monologue here – the night also celebrated the performances of Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Patricia Arquette and JK Simmons and awarded Richard Linklater his first Golden Globe.

You can find all of the film winners after the jump:

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Jan 112015


“Keep on Keepin’ On” isn’t just the name of a wonderful Curtis Mayfield song from the 70s, and it isn’t just a statement of affirmation and encouragement from a Jazz legend to a Jazz protegé. Most importantly, it’s a motto that Clark Terry lives by – ain’t nothing going to keep this cool cat down. My review of documentary Keep on Keepin’ On after the jump.

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Jan 112015


The nominees in the 68th annual British Academy Film Awards were announced on Friday. The Grand Budapest Hotel led the way with eleven nominations, with Birdman and The Theory of Everything following with ten, and The Imitation Game with nine. They are joined by Boyhood for Best Film.

There were a few notable exclusions. Selma failed to received a single nomination, Foxcatcher and Gone Girl received just the two apiece and Mr Turner was absent in a lot of the major categories. Whiplash and Nightcrawler continue to strengthen their momentum, with multiple nominations in key categories.

You can find all of the nominees, with commentary, after the jump: Continue reading »

Jan 082015

This morning the Writer’s Guild of America announced the nominees in their annual awards. Like the Screen Actor’s Guild, Producer’s Guild and Director’s Guild, the nominees at the Writer’s Guild are often represented again at Oscars. However, there are often scripts not eligible for consideration here. This year there were several: Birdman, The Theory of Everything, Selma, The Lego Movie and Mr Turner notably.


Best Original Screenplay, as if often the case, has a lot of strong contenders even with several aforementioned exclusions. Whiplash, Nightcrawler and Foxcatcher are all challenging for nominations in several categories, but one (or more) will likely miss out on a Oscar writing nomination. Adapted is a lot weaker. Gone Girl and The Imitation Game look like the only locks, with The Theory of Everything a likely player. American Sniper is again recognised here, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s beguiling adaptation of Thomas Punchon’s Inherent Vice was not.
You can see all of the nominees after the jump. Continue reading »

Jan 072015

The rover


The Australia Film Critics Association (AFCA), of which I am a member, has announced the nominees for the 2015 AFCA Film Awards, with David Michod’s The Rover and break-out horror hit The Babadook leading with 6 nominations a piece. Charlie’s Country and Predesintation each have 5 nominations, while 52 Tuesdays, These Final Hours, Tracks, The Mule and The Infinite Man have each picked up 3 nominations. While The Rover has 6 nominations, ‘Best Film’ is not one of them. 4 of its nominations are in acting categories, including nominations for Guy Pearce (Lead Actor) and Robert Pattinson (Supporting Actor).  The Best Film category is to be contested by Charlie’s Country, Predestination, The Babadook, The Infinite Man and Tracks.

On a personal note, I am delighted that my favourite Australian film of 2014, The Infinite Man has received 3 nominations, in particular for ‘Best Screenplay’ which I think it would be an extremely worthy winner of. The film is an example of how to make an incredibly effective, tight, low-budget film, and I have nothing but admiration for all involved with it.

AFCA Film Awards also have 3 categories for international films – Best International Film (foreign language), Best International Film (English language) and Best Documentary (Australian or International). Ida and Two Days, One Night are among the foreign language film nominees, while Nightcrawler and Boyhood are both nominated in the International Film (English language) category.

It is heartening to see the wonderful Australian skateboarding documentary All This Mayhem nominated for Best Documentary, alongside 4 international nominees which include Jodowrowsky’s Dune and 20, 000 Days on Earth.

The AFCA Film Awards will be announced at the awards ceremony on February 7th at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne.

The full list of AFCA Film Award nominations can be found after the jump.


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