Jan 312016
 

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In January I watched 27 films, completed 3 full seasons of television and read 6 novels. The latter is a much-better-than-expected start on a goal I have set myself in 2016 – to read 30 novels. I have been enjoying the balance, actually finding myself more comfortable in the world of Ancillary Justice or The Price of Salt than in the cinema.

What I expect to be one of the highlight events of the year, a Hateful Eight Q&A screening with Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson in attendance, came on the back of seeing the film at a Roadshow screening the night before. I can’t think of the last time I saw the same film in a cinema two nights in a row. Especially one projected in 70mm. And one that warrants immediate repeat watching, like this does.  We also attended a special screening of Birdman, with live accompanying percussion score from Antonio Sanchez. A terrific experience, as Sanchez introduced the screening and told of his friendship with Inarritu and how he came to be a part of the film.

With very few other cinema visits I have been raiding Netflix, iTunes and Dendy Direct for film and TV, catching up with a few acclaimed films I missed out on last year and working through new seasons of True Detective and Bored to Death, in addition to the excellent first two seasons of Halt & Catch Fire, which no one talks about.

Check out my thoughts on all first-time viewing (film) after the jump: Continue reading »

Jan 312016
 

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The winners in the five film categories for the  22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild awards are listed below.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant as Hugh Glass
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Brie Larson – Room as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation as The Commandant
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl as Gerda Wegener
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Spotlight – Billy Crudup, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci

What does this mean for the Oscars? Well, betting against DiCaprio or Larson would be akin to throwing money into a bottomless pit. They were already Oscar favourites before their SAG wins, and this only strengthens their respective positions. Elba is unfortunately not nominated for an Oscar, so his win has little impact on the Oscar race. Stallone is surely still the favourite here. Vikander’s win is a big one, as the supporting actress field is a little more open. If Spotlight is going to win best picture, there’s a very good chance McAdams will win here, although she is the rank outsider according to awards sites like Golden Derby. I’m personally cheering for either Mara (who should have been nominated in the lead category) or Winslet.

The ensemble prize going to Spotlight over The Big Short means we have ourselves a real race for the Best Picture prize. The Big Short took the PGA award, which is one of the most reliable indicators of a Best Picture winner. However, Spotlight was in the awards conversation long before The Big Short, and it’s SAG win gives it some much-needed momentum. Let’s see what the DGA awards bring, now that will make things very interesting indeed.

 

The award winners in all categories and their acceptance speeches can be viewed at the SAG website.

Jan 302016
 

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Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin and Michael Fassbender have teamed up for the first time (and hopefully not the last) to tell the story of Steve Jobs, one of the most powerful and influential men in modern tech history. The results are extraordinary. With a distinctive three-act structure Steve Jobs takes a viewer behind the curtain of Jobs’ world to reveal the man’s insecurities, the flawed and fractured relationships that defined his character, and the brash, ruthless decision-making that attributed to his success with Apple. It details the minutes leading up to Jobs’ tech-landscape defining 1984, 1988 and 1998 product launches, building an unglamorous portrait and subverting common rules of the biopic with attention to specificity and the fleet-of-the-moment.

Continue reading »

Jan 282016
 

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In cinemas this week – Spotlight, Room, Looking for Grace and Dirty Grandpa

SpotlightTells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment. Directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent), Spotlight is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times. Spotlight has a cracking script, an ace cast and a compelling story detailing a significant case of investigative-journalism and the resulting Pulitzer Prize-winning article, but it is so un-cinematic that sadly very little has lingered with me. Keen to watch it again, though. You can read Sam’s eloquent take on the film at the link.

Room – Both highly suspenseful and deeply emotional Room is a unique and touching exploration of the boundless love between a mother and her child. After 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world. As he experiences all the joy, excitement, and fear that this new adventure brings, he holds tight to the one thing that matters most of all – his special bond with his Ma. No one can deny that Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s performances are incredibly moving, but Emma Donoghue’s cinematic adaptation of her own literary phenomenon does have its problems. Sam liked it more than I did – and her thoughts are at the link.

Dirty Grandpa – Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is one week away from marrying his boss’s daughter, putting him on the fast track for a partnership at the law firm. However, when the straight-laced Jason is tricked into driving his foul-mouthed grandfather, Dick (Robert De Niro), to Daytona for spring break, his pending nuptials are suddenly in jeopardy. Between riotous frat parties, bar fights, and an epic night of karaoke, Dick is on a quest to live his life to the fullest and bring Jason along for the ride. Ultimately, on the wildest journey of their lives, “dirty” Grandpa and his uptight grandson discover they can learn from one another and form the bond they never had. Reactions out of the U.S have been outrageously, but perhaps justifiably, negative.

Looking for Grace – The long-awaited new film from Sue Brooks, the acclaimed and multi award-winning director of Japanese Story is an intimate, funny and profoundly moving story about the complexities of family life. When rebellious 16-year-old Grace (rising star Odessa Young) takes off, her exasperated mum and dad (Radha Mitchell and Richard Roxburgh) enlist the help of a close-to-retirement detective, and begin the long drive from Perth out to the West Australian wheatbelt to try to find her. On the journey, the two must confront the realities of their changing relationship to one another, and to their daughter. Wry, intriguing and poignant, Brooks’ unflinching reflection on the disruptive effects of both adolescence and middle age boasts her trademark sense of character, acerbic humour and eye for the hypnotic rhythms of Australia’s regional landscapes.

Weekly Recommendation – I don’t love either of the Best Picture nominees out this week –  Spotlight and Room – but many people do, and they are certainly worth a look. Two of the most popular and critically acclaimed films of the past year with 10 Oscar nominations between them. On paper they seem unmissable. At the very least, the acting is excellent. 

Jan 272016
 

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Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of widespread sexual abuse and pedophilia within the organisation, Spotlight is a unfussy look at journalists doing their job, and doing it well. The sharp script is delivered by a cast of considerable talent, and it’s easy to see why Spotlight is the recipient of six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

Continue reading »

Jan 192016
 

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In cinemas this week – The Hateful Eight (digital release) and The Danish Girl. 

The Hateful Eight – Set after Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jessica Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff.

Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travellers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all.

As of Thursday 21st January the Special Roadshow Engagement, presented in 70mm at selected cinemas in NSW and Victoria, will be over. Viewers will only be able to watch the digital presentation, which is 22 minutes shorter and doesn’t feature the overture or an interval. I can only comment on my experience with the film, which was tremendous. QT’s most political film to date is an agitating, ferocious, nasty piece of work, sure to divide people. The film’s two distinct halves are widely different, but both offend and entertain in equal measure. The claustrophobic setting is made to look exceptionally larger than it actually is and Ennio Morricone’s chilling score will rattle around in your brain for days afterwards. Jennifer Jason Leigh a stand-out from a brilliant cast of Tarantino regulars.

The Danish Girl – A fictitious love story inspired by the lives of artists Einer and Gerda Wegener. Their marriage and work evolve as they navigate Einer’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer, Lili Elbe. This is the new film from Tom Hooper (known for odious films like The King’s Speech and Les Miserables), and stars Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne, Oscar nominated for their roles.

Weekly Recommendation: The Hateful Eight, but I suspect if you are film fan in either Sydney or Melbourne you have already seen it (last week). Carol and The Big Short are very worthy of a re-watch. The Danish Girl has scored some Oscar nominations – so we’ll be seeing purely out of interest in the performances. 

Jan 172016
 

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To five-year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) Room is all there is, it’s his whole world. Jack was born in Room and he’s lived there all his life. He doesn’t know he’s the product of rape, or that Room is actually a garden shed converted into a prison that sits in the backyard on a quiet suburban American street. The premise is bleak, but told from the perspective of Jack, Room is a story of love and resilience.

Continue reading »

Jan 162016
 

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Veteran American independent filmmaker Todd Haynes (Safe, Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce) doesn’t make many films, but the master of precision is consistently fascinating on an academic level, and because he works outside of Hollywood, must work hard to source funding. He is celebrated for his cinematic representation of gay people, authentic period reproduction, experimentation with gaze, and his fascinating female characters, whom he offers point-of-view and agency. They are always examined in thoughtful and complex ways, making Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking source material, The Price of Salt, a perfect fit for his sensibilities. Haynes has worked with in the past and drawn stunning performances from Julianne Moore (Safe and Far From Heaven) and Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce), and this is second collaboration with Cate Blanchett (who takes on one of the portrayals of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There).

His exquisite and elegantly restrained romantic drama Carol, which has been on every film buff’s most anticipated list since its première at the Cannes Film Festival (where it won the Queer Palm), is an enchantingly beautiful production. With striking 16mm film compositions, an authentic recreation of 1950s Manhattan, and a lovely score from Carter Burwell – it is a moving adaptation of Highsmith’s transcendent, heart-swelling tale. She is perhaps best known for writing The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train (which have also been adapted for the screen), but due to the book’s homosexual relationship, she wrote The Price of Salt under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. Written for the screen by Phyllis Nagy, it has gone on to be a multi-BAFTA and Academy Award-nominee. The two lead actresses, the faultless Blanchett and the astonishing Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Side Effects), are absolutely radiant, but every frame of the film is a work of art. Continue reading »