Jan 152016
 

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Overnight the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards were announced, and as usual we were up after the stroke of midnight to catch them as they were broadcast live. There has been a lot of discussion about this year’s leading contenders and we felt that the field would be spread quite deep – no stand-out sweeping many different categories, they will be shared around – and as a result it has been a lot harder to predict. While Spotlight went in the wobbly favourite for Best Picture, contenders in the shape of The Big Short and The Revenant have been building momentum. The number of Best Picture nominees has also been a hotly debated topic, with many pundits claiming that the number would not surpass eight. Would there be a surprise – could Pixar’s Inside Out, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, or box office giant Straight Outta Compton sneak in? Would Sylvester Stallone follow up his Golden Globe with his second nomination for his portrait of Rocky Balboa. There are always stories around the Oscars, and while they may be dipping into a shallow pool of films, some amazing films have been recognised this year.

Well, leading all nominees with a whopping 12 was Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant. Now we predicted it would score at least 8, but when it picked up the uncertain Best Costume Design and Supporting Actor, we knew it was set to hit over 10. George Miller’s Mad Max Fury Road received 10 nominations, on par with our predictions, cleaning up the technical categories (although unfathomably missing out on an Original Score nomination). The rest of the field of nominees is spread right out with a host of films landing between 3 and 7 nominations. Joining The Revenant and Fury Road in the Best Picture field were The Martian (7), Spotlight (6), Bridge of Spies (6), The Big Short (5), Room (4) and Brooklyn (3). On the outside with multiple noms were Carol (6), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (5), The Danish Girl (4), The Hateful Eight (3), Sicario (3) and Ex Machina (2).

Check out the full list of nominees by category after the jump: Continue reading »

Oct 212015
 

‘Bridge of Spies’ by DreamWorks Studios.

In cinemas this week – Bridge of Spies, Burnt, The Lobster, Alex and Eve and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.

Bridge of SpiesIn Steven Spielberg’s compelling and competently crafted new espionage drama Tom Hanks stars as James B. Donovan, an experienced and respected Brooklyn insurance attorney who is tasked with the duty of defending Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet spy arrested on U.S soil. Due to his involvement in the trial he is recruited by the U.S Government to negotiate the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War. Donovan journeys into East Berlin to make contact with both the Soviets and the Germans, offering his client Abel, whom he has saved from the Death Penalty, as a bargaining chip for their safe release. Donovan would become a celebrated humanist for this timely negotiation (and another exchange following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion), and wrote a book, ‘Strangers on a Bridge, The Case of Colonel Abel’, detailing the event. My review at the link.

Burnt Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all – and lost it. A two-star Michelin rockstar with the bad habits to match, the former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene did everything different every time out, and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive Michelin star though, he’ll need the best of the best on his side. This remarkably funny and emotional story is about the love of food, the love between two people, and the power of second chances. A sloppy screenplay and erratic editing prove distracting, but the film comes alive and finds comfort in the kitchen chaos. This is a flinty depiction of a flawed man seeking redemptive perfection and learning the lesson that chemistry in the kitchen stems from treating his team like human beings and not another utensil for manipulation [AB]. Sam’s review is at the link.

The Lobster – Winner of the Cannes Jury Prize, this is the new film from Yorgos Lanthimos (Alps, Dogtooth). In the near future, single citizens are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to pair off with a mate – or be turned into the animal of their choosing and hunted in the woods. It features an all-star cast including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seyoux and John C. Reilly. Reviews suggest that The Lobster is fiercely, unmistakably Lanthimos: surreal, grimly funny and strangely moving.

Weekly Recommendation: From the two that we have already seen this week, we like Bridge of Spies. We are very much looking forward to The Lobster. Will be well worth seeking out.

Oct 132015
 

Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) meets with his client Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet agent arrested in the U.S. in DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 PIctures' dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg.

A new film from Steven Spielberg is here, surprisingly without the usual buzz. While his most recent films Lincoln and War Horse were long tipped to feature in the Oscar nominees, and released for Christmas or in January, Bridge of Spies has been smoothly unveiled without fuss in October. That’s not to say that it won’t end up being a player again this year, but it is refreshing to just watch the film without those added expectations.

What is striking throughout The Bridge of Spies is the confidence in the craftsmanship – the polished competency present in every frame. The veteran Spielberg, directing his 29th feature film across five decades, is a master of the cinematic medium. One can’t deny that this is a maturely constructed and intelligently conceived film. Though features like Schindler’s List, Minority Report and Munich suggest otherwise, Spielberg’s films often adhere to conventions and stereotype and serve as widely consumable crowd-pleasers. Bridge of Spies, a true-life Cold War historical drama of shady allegiance and daring espionage, is one such film. It tells a compelling American story starring one of American’s heroes of the screen, Mr. Tom Hanks.

Continue reading »