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 »

Jan 142016
 

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This week may be one of the strongest release weeks of 2016 – especially if you are itching to see Quentin Tarantino’s spectacular new film The Hateful Eight in limited release 70mm projection. I will feature it in next week’s releases, when it hits wider release. Oscar contenders Carol and The Big Short, along with the goofy-fun of Goosebumps makes for a busy week ahead.

CarolIn Todd Haynes’ exquisite adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt is a beautiful film. After Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department store the two women develop a fast bond that becomes a love with complicated consequences. Every frame of this transcendent, heart-swelling attraction is a work of art, Carter Burwell’s score is lovely, and the two radiant leads are brilliant. Full review to come.

The Big Short – When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything. What a colossal achievement. Adam McKay achieves an improbable task here; turning the dauntingly impenetrable catalysts for the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC), and the terrifying-to-consider effects, into a tremendously entertaining comedy-drama. He also never ignores the tragedy of the event and isn’t afraid to dig deep into the world of complex mortgage derivatives and use inventive approaches to make it accessible. The film is a damning indictment of Wall Street, from the angle of men who saw the crash coming and who begin to realise what their unexpected profit opportunity meant for the U.S financial system, and the rest of the world. Shaping up to be a serious Oscar contender, full review at the link.

Goosebumps – Upset about moving from the big city to a small town, young Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) finds a silver lining when he meets his beautiful neighbour Hannah (Odeya Rush). The teen is surprised to learn that Hannah’s mysterious father is R.L. Stine (Jack Black), the famous author of the best-selling “Goosebumps” series. When Zach accidentally unleashes the monsters from the fantastic tales, it’s up to Stine, his daughter and Cooper to return the beasts back to the books where they belong. LOVED the Goosebumps books when I was a kid, and this is surely going to get a pass on nostalgia alone. 

The 5th Wave – A desperate teen (Chloë Grace Moretz) tries to save her younger brother as increasingly deadly attacks decimate most of the Earth. Based on Rick Yancey’s eponymous novel, this has a top cast but I expect one I will have to catch on home entertainment.

Recommendations: Both The Big Short and Carol are wonderful, and landed in the top 15 films I saw in 2015. The former is looking like one of the top contenders for Best Picture. But, if you also see an opportunity to make it to a 70mm screening of Tarantino’s bold, unruly, nasty and unforgettable Hateful Eight, do not surrender that chance. Goosebumps has an unfortunate release slot, because it is surrounded by some heavyweight films, but it looks like a good deal of fun.  

Dec 052015
 

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The 2015 Awards Season has started and for those out there wondering what films are going to receive Oscar attention this year, the below winners suggest that it is going to be a very open and unpredictable year. Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and Carol are all amongst the big winners at the Gotham, National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle Awards – and all look to be legitimate contenders for a coveted Best Picture slot. Check out the lists of all the winners, and some commentary, after the jump:  Continue reading »