Jan 312015
 

Through the first month of 2015 I watched a total of 23 films. I have been making more of an effort to watch TV in 2015, and I will be including everything I watch there in these round-ups.

Mads Mikkelson

In January we were also were given a PS4, which means that on some evenings film and TV won’t matter. Nothing else will matter. We are going to have to be disciplined with how we spend our time this year, but what a cool new toy.

All categories below (after the jump) are ranked in order of preference: Continue reading »

Jan 302015
 

aacta

It was a big night for Jennifer Kent and The Babadook at Australia’s annual celebration of film and television. The director picked up best director, best original screenplay and shared the best film prize. The ABC reports that Kent said of her win,”I’ve traveled round the world with The Babadook and it’s been an extraordinary journey this last year. But to be here and to have this award from my industry peers in my home country means so much to me.”

The Babadook shared the best film prize with Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner, which was the most commercially successful local film of 2014. The Lego Movie may be missing from the Academy Awards, but it was recognised by the AACTAs, picking up the award for best visual effects or animation. Sarah Snook and David Gulpilil were the extremely deserving winners of the lead acting categories.
 
Award for Best Film
The Babadook Kristina Ceyton and Kristian Moliere
The Water Diviner Andrew Mason, Keith Rodger and Troy Lum

Award for Best Direction
The Babadook Jennifer Kent

Award for Best Original Screenplay
The Babadook Jennifer Kent

Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
The Railway Man Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson

Award for Best Lead Actor
David Gulpilil Charlie’s Country

Award for Best Lead Actress
Sarah Snook Predestination

Award for Best Supporting Actor
Yilmaz Erdogan The Water Diviner

Award for Best Supporting Actress
Susan Prior The Rover

Award for Best Visual Effects or Animation
The Lego Movie Chris McKay, Amber Naismith, Aidan Sarsfield and Grant Freckelton

Award for Best Feature Length Documentary
Ukraine Is Not A Brothel Kitty Green, Jonathan auf der Heide and Michael Latham

Trailblazer Award
Rose Byrne

The full list of AACTA winners (including the television categories), can be found here.

Jan 292015
 

FOXCATCHER

In cinemas this week: Foxcacther, Still Alice, The Theory of Everything and Mortdecai. 

FoxcatcherTells the story of Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), who sees a way out from the shadow of his more celebrated wrestling brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and a life of poverty when he is summoned by eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move onto his estate and train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Desperate to gain the respect of his disapproving mother, du Pont begins “coaching” a world-class athletic team and, in the process, lures Mark into dangerous habits, breaks his confidence and drives him into a self-destructive spiral. Based on actual events, Foxcatcher is a gripping and profoundly American story of fragile men who pinned their hopes for love and redemption on a desperate obsession for greatness that was to end in tragedy. Review at link.

Still Alice – Alice Howland (five time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore), happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. The film is based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 best-selling novel. Moore, and her co-stars Kristen Stewart and Alex Baldwin in particular, are outstanding in this deeply upsetting film about the shock onset of a debilitating illness, and how Alice and her family cope with her gradual loss of knowledge, memory and identity. It is a candid and honest portrayal of such a terrifying situation, but the filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland do everything right. Tears aplenty.

The Theory of Everything – Starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, this is the extraordinary story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde. Once a healthy, active young man, Hawking received an earth-shattering diagnosis at 21 years of age. With Jane fighting tirelessly by his side, Stephen embarks on his most ambitious scientific work, studying the very thing he now has precious little of – time. Together, they defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science, and achieving more than they could ever have dreamed. The film is based on the memoir ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen’, by Jane Hawking, and is directed by Academy Award winner James Marsh (Man on Wire). Naturally, I am fascinated by this film because of the critical acclaim and the Oscar-nominated performances, but why do I think this is going to be a very ordinary film about an extraordinary man?

Mortdecai – Juggling some angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) must traverse the globe armed only with his good looks and special charm in a race to recover a stolen painting rumoured to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold. Reviews have been dire, calling this role a low point in Depp’s post-Pirates career. Yikes. I think I will skip this one.

Weekly Recommendation: This is one of the most Oscar-heavy weeks of the season so far. Foxcatcher and The Theory of Everything both received five Academy Award nominations, and Still Alice one. I will catch up with The Theory of Everything this week, but I can highly recommend Foxcatcher and Still Alice, which are likely to cut deep. 

Jan 262015
 

EddieR

The Screen Actors Guild awards have been announced, and they contain both upsets and the expected. The Supporting Male & Female Actor and Leading Female Actor categories at the Oscars seem like a give, with Simmons, Arquette and Moore all wining in their respective categories at the SAGs. It’s almost impossible to imagine these three not being the Academy Award winners in 4 weeks time.

In what some would call a major upset, Eddie Redmayne took home the SAG for leading actor. Keaton would have probably been the favourite here, so this was a surprise. Both men won Golden Globes, but the SAG has to tip the scales in Redmayne’s favour. It certainly seems that the other three nominees are completely out of the Oscar race now.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Eddie Redmayne The Theory of Everything 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Julianne Moore Still Alice

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

J.K. Simmons Whiplash

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Patricia Arquette Boyhood

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

The cast of Birdman

A full list of SAG award winners (including the television categories) can be found here.

 
Producers Guild Awards

The 26th annual Producers Guild Awards gave their top honour to Birdman, giving the film an edge over Boyhood in the best picture Oscar race.  How much of an edge? From Deadline, “Since instituting the top prize in 1989, they have deviated from the ultimate Academy (whose producers they also vet) Best Picture choice six times, most recently in 2006 when they chose Little Miss Sunshine while Oscar went with The Departed“. So while it’s not a given, it is a strong tick in Birdman‘s column, as is the win for ensemble cast at the SAGs – the industry likes Birdman.

The PGAs give absolutely no indication as to which animated or documentary film will win their respective Oscar categories, as PGA winners The LEGO Movie and Life Itself are not nominated in the best animated film or best documentary film categories.

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures

Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures

The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Producer: Dan Lin

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures

Life Itself (Magnolia Pictures)
Producers: Garrett Basch, Steve James, Zak Piper

A full list of Producers Guild Award winners (including the Television categories), can be found here.

Jan 212015
 

sniper

Clint Eastwood’s filmography is a mixed bag of genres and intention, one that I haven’t spent much time with over the last ten years. I can’t help but feel that he is a real world representation of The Dark Knight adage of ‘Live long enough to see yourself become the villain’, but I was very much willing to give him and his recent output the benefit of the doubt. American Sniper held my attention and at no time was I bored. The action is directed in a classical manner that is works very well. Everyone gives interesting, controlled and charismatic performances. However, I could not accept the way it embraced a lie. American Sniper doesn’t give a damn about anything except for The Legend, a myth that it refuses to question or to ever let slip into a grey area. Every question raised is rhetorical, with no answer required or wanted. Eastwood has a smooth operator’s way with social issues, one that makes the audience feel like a protest has been raised without ever questioning the linkages and incidents that pulled us into the situation.

[Spoilers for American Sniper are included in the discussion ahead – Ed]

Continue reading »

Jan 212015
 

20141003_AmericanSniper1

In cinemas this week: Clint Eastwood’s six-time Oscar nominated war, box-office smashing drama American Sniper, Reese Witherspoon-led biographical drama Wild and romantic comedy The Wedding Ringer.

American SniperU.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and, as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, becoming emblematic of the SEAL creed to “leave no man behind.” But upon returning home, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind. Reviews have been mixed, with some very harsh criticisms about the film’s political conservatism and jingoism. But, following its late surge into the Oscar discussion – which earned Cooper his third straight Oscar nom – it exploded at the U.S box office, breaking January records. Balancing tense battle conflict with Kyle’s PTSD back at home I understand this is as much a drama than an action film.

Wild – With the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed has lost all hope. After years of reckless, destructive behavior, she makes a rash decision. With absolutely no experience, driven only by sheer determination, Cheryl (portrayed by Reese Witherspoon) hikes more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddens, strengthens, and ultimately heals her. Full review at the link.

The Wedding Ringer – Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a loveable but socially awkward groom-to-be with a problem: he has no best man. With less than two weeks to go until he marries the girl of his dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug is referred to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., a company that provides flattering best men for socially challenged guys in need. What ensues is a hilarious wedding charade as they try to pull off the big con, and an unexpected budding bromance between Doug and his fake best man Jimmy. This could be dismissed as a lazy rehash of The Wedding Singer, but it has an amusing idea and if the chemistry between Gad and Hart is winning could be quite entertaining.

Weekly Recommendation: Wild is worthy of a look, but I suspect it won’t be the most cinema-essential title released this year. It is perfectly adequate home viewing, but if you want to catch up with the two Oscar-nominated performances in the cinema you won’t be disappointed. American Sniper is something of a wildcard. I just don’t know how I am going to feel about this film. Clint Eastwood has made some brilliant films in his career and if this is a return to form it is going to be a tough one to shake. I will be catching it this week, and I wait in anticipation.