Nov 042015
 

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The 2015 British Independent Film Awards were announced yesterday and Yorgos Lanthimos’ wonderful new film The Lobster led the surprisingly offbeat field with seven nominations, including Best Best, Director, Screenplay and Lead Actor – Colin Farrell. Co-Best Film nominees 45 Years and Macbeth each scored six, while Ex Machina and Amy were handily rewarded with five.

Brooklyn also scored five nominations, including three for acting, and one for Nick Hornby’s screenplay. Ben Wheatley’s hotly anticipated and expectedly divisive High Rise was similarly honoured, while Oscar contenders Suffragette and The Danish Girl were relegated to just acting nominations. Suffragette led that field with four, while the The Danish Girl received just a single nomination, for lead actress Alicia Vikander. Vikander has been touted as one of the top contenders for the Supporting Actress Oscar, but the voters her saw that claim dubious and voted her into the lead. Vikander could easily have been nominated for Ex Machina, but it was overlooked for acting, with production design and visual effects deservedly honoured in the ‘Achievement in Craft’ category. I was also quite pleased to see Palio score a Best Documentary nod. It is one of the most thrilling experiences I had in the cinema this year.

45 Years, Suffragette and Brooklyn are looking to be the most likely to feature amongst the Oscar contenders, but we now know we cannot write off The Lobster. It is likely ‘too weird’ for Oscar voters, but it is sure is pleasing to see it gather attention. Australians hoping to see some of these films don’t have to wait long. You can catch up on Amy and Ex Machina on home entertainment, while The Lobster is currently in cinemas. 45 Years, Brooklyn and Suffragette are all screening at the British Film Festival, which is running presently. Suffragette and The Danish Girl have Boxing Day releases, with Brooklyn and 45 Years scheduled in 2016.

You can check out the full list of nominees after the jump: Continue reading »

May 312015
 

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I made six visits to the cinema in May, double the amount of April but still relatively slim in comparison to last year. But, I have not been short of viewing options. Having gained media accreditation for the Sydney Film Festival I have been working through a bunch of screeners. Some amazing. Others average. Coverage will come during the festival so I can’t discuss any of these films here. I am seeing 30 films during the 12 days of the festival so June is going to be crazy. As has been a 2015 trend, and what I feel is a work requirement, I have been watching a lot of DTV films released on VOD platforms. There are some gems in there. It just takes a little bit of research, but a complete unknown could appear on your best of the year list.

Mad Men is over. Sam and I very much enjoyed finishing the show, after watching from Season 3 together. Very satisfying. Speaking of satisfying I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS4. 85 hours committed and not a regret. I have started ‘My Career’ mode in NBA 2K15 – a whole new addiction. I have also been listening to a lot of music recently, and I discovered two of my favourite albums of the year this month – The Epic by Kamasi Washington and Frozen Niagara Falls by Purient. On the novel front, been reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Every bit as great as I was led to believe. You can never have too much Bourdain in your life.

I watched a total of 32 films in May. Read about a selection after the jump:

Continue reading »

May 062015
 

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A very interesting week. Finally. Out in cinemas: Clouds of Sils Maria, Ex Machina, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Pitch Perfect 2 and The Re-write.

Clouds of Sils MariaMy #22 film of 2014. Set in the gorgeous Swiss Alps a veteran stage star Maria (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) hide out as she prepares for her latest play – the same one that made her famous as a young woman, but the opposing ‘older’ role. Unable to identify with this character, due to her own concerns about aging and being unable to adapt this character into a new context, she turns to Valentine for advice on the actress taking on her old role (Chloe Grace Moretz), challenging her to rehearse the role with her at length. Tension mounts when Maria is disagreeable with what Valentine brings to the role. As the material and their relationship begins to merge, this takes a Persona-esque twist that is quite a hook. This is a very pretty and bonkers look at performance as role, textual interpretation influenced by age (and how measures of age in the business have changed) and 21st Century ‘celebrity’, and the opposition of personal privacy vs. public openness. All three women excel, but Stewart’s performance is her best and one of the best I saw in 2014.

Ex Machina – Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, makes his directorial debut with the stylish and cerebral thriller Ex Machina. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company’s brilliant and reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon his arrival, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a Turing Test – charging him with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness, of Nathan’s latest experiment in artificial intelligence. That experiment is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a breathtaking A.I. whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated–and more deceptive–than the two men could have imagined. I really like Alex Garland’s screenplays, and I am completely on board with this fascinating idea. Reviews have been very positive, plus that excellent cast is in fine form.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – Kurt Cobain, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Nirvana, remains an icon 20 years after his death. Here, we take a journey through Cobain’s life and his career with Nirvana through the lens of his home movies, recordings, artwork, photography, and journals. As a muso and a Nirvana fan I definitely want to see this.

Pitch Perfect 2 – The Barden Bellas enter an international a cappella competition which no American team has ever won. The sequel to the surprise hit, which I rather enjoyed. Elizabeth Banks directs, which is interesting, but I just can’t bring myself to sitting through this one. 

The Re-write – Once upon a time, Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) was an Award-winning Hollywood screenwriter, but divorce and a string of unsuccessful films have left him with nothing but bad debts and blank pages. So when his agent arranges a job as guest screenwriting professor at a remote university in upstate New York, a desperate Keith can’t say no. Initially hoping to give minimal effort to actual teaching so he can focus on his next script, Keith unexpectedly finds himself becoming invested in his students lives, including Holly (Marisa Tomei), a single mom looking to start her own new chapter. The Rewrite also stars J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Chris Elliott and Bella Heathcote.

Weekly Recommendation: There’s too much good stuff out this week. I am thinking a weekend of Ex Machina, Montage of Heck and a second look at Clouds of Sils Maria is on the cards.