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 »

Jan 132016
 

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The Director’s Guild of America have announced their nominees, and these nominees reflect our predictions for the eventual Oscar. Spotlight and The Big Short complete their circle of powerful Guild nominations (SAG, PGA and WGA) with further recognition, cementing them as the Oscar frontrunners. Golden Globe winner for Best Director Inarritu (The Revenant) also appears, as expected. Todd Haynes (Carol) and Steven Spielberg (The Big Short) are the notable exclusions, with Carol’s Oscar chances uncertain (no PGA nomination, but lots of love from the Golden Globes and BAFTA).

Here are the nominees:

OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN FEATURE FILM

Alejandro G. InarrituThe Revenant

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Ridley Scott, The Martian 

 

OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT OF A FIRST-TIME FEATURE FILM DIRECTOR

Fernando Coimbra, A Wolf at the Door

Joel Edgerton, The Gift

Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Laszlo Nemes, Son of Saul

 

Jan 112016
 

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The Hollywood Foreign Press Association have selected the winners for the 2016 Golden Globe Awards, presented today. I didn’t get the chance to catch any of the ceremony, again hosted by Ricky Gervais, and apart from snippets of tweets and the odd photographed celebrity (Kirsten Dunst was particularly eye-catching) the winners were the business at hand. The Revenant and The Martian took out Best Motion Picture – Drama and Musical or Comedy respectively, claiming five awards between them, with Steve Jobs joining them as the only other film to end the night looking greedy.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won his second straight Golden Globe (Best Director for The Revenant to follow up Best Screenplay for Birdman), while Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larson staked their claim as the Oscar favourites, winning for their widely-acclaimed performances. Sylvester Stallone was honoured for Best Supporting Actor for his career-best work in Creed, while another veteran, Ennio Morricone, was also celebrated for his original score contribution to The Hateful Eight. 

So, what do these victories mean for the Academy Award nominations? Nothing. The voting for those nominees has now closed. What it does do is shift the momentum for certain films and individuals. The crossover between the two is becoming less predictable, but this is shaping up to be one of the wildest, most unpredictable award seasons in recent years. It is expected that today’s winners will at least receive an Oscar nomination, but apart from perhaps DiCaprio, who looks the likely Best Actor winner, the Academy could go a whole different way.

The Revenant’s success was surprising. It is an extraordinary film, and thoroughly deserved to win, but considering the loud negative reaction we didn’t foresee a large body of voters agreeing on it. The Martian’s victory (and Damon’s for Best Actor-Comedy) in an ill-suited category is less significant, but the fact that it beat the film with the most momentum and the widely predicted winner in The Big Short, does make one re-evaluate The Martian’s chances. Jobs too has been quietly landing acting nominations for cast Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, and Aaron Sorkin’s script, but both victories today (for Winslet and Sorkin) were unexpected. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is the film that lost a lot of momentum today. When it failed to win Best Screenplay, that film’s big trump card, we knew it was in trouble.

The winners in the film categories are after the jump. For the rest of the winners, visit the Golden Globes website: Continue reading »

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 »

Oct 132015
 

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For some reason Ryan McNeil decided it was a good idea to invite me onto the Matineecast for a 3rd appearance. Who am I to say no? It’s both fun, and an honour to be a guest on a show that I regularly enjoy listening to.

This episode we talked about Rodley Scott’s The Martian, one of my favourite films of the year thus far. We also swayed over briefly to the otherside and chatted about Solaris (well Ryan talked, and I kinda fumbled my words and tried to make intelligent sounds) and All Is Lost.

You can listen to the full episode here.

Sep 222015
 

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As we are going to be away for a couple of weeks, here is a preview of what is to come in cinemas both September 24 and October 1.

Sept 24 – Sicario, Pan, Cut Snake, The Visit, Diary of a Teenage Girl and London Road.

Oct 1 – The Martian, Macbeth, The Intern and The Wrecking Crew.

Sicario – In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive. The latest film from the great French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) strikes a troubling chord throughout, ensuring there is an ever-present tension, and wisely keeping his characters working on different frequencies and keeping us in the dark as to what this task force is really up to. With some genius photography from Roger Deakins and an psyche rattling soundscape from Johann Johannsson, this is essential cinema viewing that implicates you in an off-the-grid government-sanctioned drug bust mission. Jeremy Scahill (an investigative reporter featured in Dirty Wars) would have had a hot case with this one.

Pan – The story of an orphan who is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There, he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny — to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan. Joe Wright’s (Atonement, Hanna) re-working of the classic fairy tale will no doubt feature his renowned visual flair, and it also boasts a strong cast, including Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara.

Cut Snake – In 1974, Sparra sweeps Paula off of her feet and starts building a life with her. When Pommie, a brutish thug, shows up unannounced, Sparra has a difficult time hiding his criminal past from Paula as he juggles both of their expectations. Starring Sullivan Stapleton and Alex Russell, Cut Snake premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, but has taken a while to come to Australian audiences. I have seen some positive reactions – a lean, mean thriller which subverts conventions – and it has a lot of potential.

The Visit – The terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day. The latest film from M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs and The Village – the good ones) has been gathering some praise – something the filmmaker has been in dire need of. The trailer isn’t much chop, but I don’t think anyone has every questioned his skills as a director of suspense – largely his scripts. Hopefully he deftly balances the horror and humour and makes the most of the tried-and-tired found-footage approach.

Diary of a Teenage Girl – Like most teenage girls, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment. Caught this at Sydney Film Festival and wasn’t overly impressed – I feel like I had seen it before, I never connected to or found sympathy in her sexploits. Many (almost everyone) has liked it more than me, but some further thoughts at the link.

London RoadDocuments the events that shook Suffolk in 2006, when the quiet rural town of Ipswich was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five women. The residents of London Road had struggled for years with frequent soliciting and kerb-crawling on their street. The film follows the community who found themselves at the epicentre of the tragic events, and is based on interviews conducted with the road’s real residents. Using their own words set to an innovative musical score, London Road tells a moving story of ordinary people coming together during the darkest of experiences. Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman star, and Rupert Norris (Broken) directs. 

The Martian – During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Sam absolutely loved this film – it is amongst her favourites for the year – and I am very much looking forward to seeing it. I believe the music and humour are the highlights.

Macbeth – Macbeth is the story of a fearless warrior and inspiring leader brought low by ambition and desire. A thrilling interpretation of the dramatic realities of the times and a reimagining of what wartime must have been like for one of literature’s most famous and compelling characters, a story of all-consuming passion and ambition set in war torn Scotland. Snowtown director Justin Kurzel teams up with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard for an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays – and it is every bit as grim as suggested. Aesthetically brilliant and uncompromising, this lays down a challenge to the audience and I feel it will be very divisive.

The Intern – A retired successful business owner and widower lands an internship at a fashion website run by a young, career-driven woman. Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway star as said characters. I dunno. It could be fun.

The Wrecking Crew – What the Funk Brothers did for Motown…The Wrecking Crew did, only bigger, for the West Coast Sound. Six years in a row in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Grammy for “Record of the Year” went to Wrecking Crew recordings. This film tells the story in pictures and that oh, so glorious sound. The favorite songs of a generation are all here, presented by the people who made them for you. Produced and directed by Denny Tedesco, son of legendary late Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, the film tells the story of the unsung musicians that provided the backbeat, the bottom and the swinging melody that drove many of the number one hits of the 1960’s. It didn’t matter if it was Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees, The Byrds or The Beach Boys, these dedicated musicians brought the flair and musicianship that made the American “west coast sound” a dominant cultural force around the world.

Recommendation: A powerful fortnight of releases. Sicario is essential viewing, and cinephiles won’t want to miss Macbeth. I am especially looking forward to The Martian and London Road from the daunting amount of unseen, but am intrigued by the formerly-unfamiliar The Wrecking Crew, Aussie thriller Cut Snake and M. Night’s return-to-form The Visit.