Thursday, March 6, 2014
I really shouldn't start a feature, because as seen in the past, I've been terrible at keeping them up, but I've had this one milling over in my head quite a bit over the past few months. Anyway, the simple premise of "Throwback Thursday" is not to share cute photos of myself frolicking in fields with horses when I was five and putting them on Instagram with the dubious #tbt. Instead, it is to kinda...look back on films that aren't all that talked about any more. But mostly, films that I once loved upon release (or if I delve into classic films, probably the films that had a huge influence on me a child) and how I feel about them now that I've had some distance and am re-evaluating them. Or it could just be random movies I just watched that aren't in IMDb's top 250 or every best of list of all time.
Whatever, it's mostly just films that were not made in the past couple of years. Even though half of you are probably saying that now the Oscars are over, films like Philomena are irrelevant. Because that's generally how awards season works. But that's another post.
Anyway, the subject of this week's throwback is Lone Scherfig's An Education, which, after three years (and I used to watch this all the time), I finally gave another watch. Mainly because every time I used to watch this film, I wanted to bury my head in books and study, and last night, I needed some motivation to jam my dome full of knowledge about Indian independence.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
I think I've done pretty well this Oscar season, seeing all but one Best Picture nominee - Nebraska - before Oscar time. And I must say, the quality has been high. Not 2010-2011 Oscar season level high, but pretty close to it. So here's my ranking of all of the films I've seen that are nominated:
8. American Hustle, Dir. David O. Russell
To be honest, American Hustle is probably the only Oscar nominee from this year that I didn't really like - it's skating someone in between a 2.5/5 and a 3/5. I just couldn't stand the sprawling nature of it and how the improvisation was so indulgent and distracting. Otherwise, it was fun enough and offered a few interesting insights, and had some stellar performances from Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper. There were parts of it that were great, and some not so great parts...it was a mixed bag that I struggle to understand how so many people loved it, but hey, everyone seems to love David O. Russell so that's cool. I do think that it'll end up going home without an Oscar to it's name, though.
7. Dallas Buyers Club, Dir. Jean-Marc Vallee
Now here's a film that would be nothing without the dedicated performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. It tells a fairly basic story in a fairly basic way (and yes, it could fall into that dreaded 'Oscar bait' territory) but it manages to be touching, relevant and actually worthy of the gold bestowed upon it because of the two central performances. I wouldn't say that it is particularly memorable and will have a loud, proud place on the hall of fame, but since it's here right now, it is worth celebrating a little bit.
6. Philomena, Dir. Stephen Frears
This seems to be the dark horse to the awards, since it just showed up and it's just there. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I wanted to make the trip to the cinema to see it, but I'm glad I did. I'm also glad that Stephen Frears is back in the fray, because his last few films - Cheri, Tamara Drewe and Lay the Favourite - slipped under the radar even before they came out. Philomena is a devastating little film, which shows film-making and it's most plain but most able to tell a good story. Which I think is an achievement in itself, because good, simple storytelling is often overlooked for so many other aspects. Oh and yeah, I cried throughout the entire thing.
5. Captain Phillips, Dir. Paul Greengrass
I'm still not at all over this film. I found the clip of Tom Hanks' final scene in this film and it is still as emotionally scarring as it was the first time I watched it. To say that the entire film hinges on that one scene wouldn't be a compliment to the rest of the film, but that final scene is probably the best acting I've ever seen on film. However, the rest of the film is so intense and expertly made, that it brings true meaning to cinema being an experience. Plus, there's the incredible debut from Barkhad Abdi, who has justly been earning his share of accolades. And it's also great how unpatriotic this film is. Had it been in the hands of anyone else other than Paul Greengrass, this film could have been a two hour lovefest towards America, the land of the brave.
4. Her, Dir. Spike Jonze
I only saw this yesterday but it already has a special place in my heart. Probably because it made me happy and depressed in equal measure. Is it a sweet film? Yes. But is it a sign of worrying times? Yes. It manages to be so many things at once, much like Samantha herself. It's really difficult to sum up this film, other than to say that it tells a strange story and makes it strangely relatable. Such an endearing little film with perfect production design. So much to love.
3. 12 Years a Slave, Dir. Steve McQueen
If 12 Years a Slave wins tomorrow, I'll be emphatically happy. Mostly because Steve McQueen is a perfect director, and while this film is my least favourite of his, it still warrants a 5/5 rating from me. I can't help but feel like this is our Schindler's List and much will be said about this film in the future. And honestly, Steve McQueen did an almost perfect job of making this film (I really wasn't a fan of the early editing and Hans Zimmer's score, but the rest of it was amazing), making an utterly brutal, unflinching portrayal of something most filmmakers would shy away from. It's so, so, so great. I can't wait to see Steve McQueen up there accepting the award.
2. Gravity, Dir. Alfonso Cuaron
Gravity is the other favourite to take the award and I wouldn't mind seeing this one win either. Mainly because it is another film that is pretty much our generation's phenomenon: we'll be talking about it for years to come. It is masterful filmmaking of the highest order, it has changed things in cinema, it has reminded us that cinema is alive and kicking...and when you think about it, it is part of a very select group. So if it wins, I'll be very, very happy. There's nothing between both 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which makes things ever so exciting.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street, Dir. Martin Scorsese
This doesn't have a shit show of winning (unless all the voters are on ludes, but we know they're all prudes, dude). But upon another watch this film became my favourite film of the year, and definitely a strong representative of our times. And, well, even though it is three hours long, every second is perfect. From the batshit crazy performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie (along with the amazing ensemble), to the wonderful screenplay, to the electric direction from Martin Scorsese, just...everything. This movie is probably scarier than all of the horror films from 2013 put together.
So, the big prediction:
Yessir, all bets are placed on 12 Years a Slave to take the big prize, with a little bit of competition coming from Gravity and (ugh) American Hustle. However, I doubt anything will be able to take down Steve McQueen's masterpiece.
What say you? Are you on the 12 Years a Slave camp? Guess we'll find out tomorrow!
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Well lookie here, I'm back to my world famous (okay, maybe not), fantastic prediction poetry that everyone loves. I am not a poet, nor do I have any intentions of becoming one, but normal predictions do bore me a little bit and spinning a rhyme is one of my favourite things to do. It is dry stuff, but hopefully you find some joy in it...
Best Achievement in Directing
Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity / Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave / David O. Russell - American Hustle / Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street / Alexander Payne - Nebraska
Without Paul Greengrass it's not really the same,
Especially as his place went to Alexander Payne,
Remember that film The Descendants with the Cloon?
I think everyone forgot that pretty soon,
Nebraska's chances here are pretty grey
(yeah, thinking of that joke took me all day)
Since this time the Cloon is out in space,
And Alfonso Cuaron is likely to win this race,
Meaning there could be a Pic/Director split,
But I don't think Steve McQueen will quit,
It's great to see him getting notice for 12 Years a Slave,
Even if I'm pretending it's really for Shame,
And then there's Oscar favourite David O. Russell,
Getting his third nomination for American Hustle,
Which is great for making an easy rhyme,
But I didn't find the movie to be a good time,
Yet, my loyalties lie with The Wolf of Wall Street,
With Martin Scorsese's direction being no mean feat,
Because his direction is terrifyingly fun,
And better than anyone else could do at 71.
All I can say is that I want Alfonso Cuaron to win because Gravity is easily the best directed film of the decade, but then I want Steve McQueen to win because 12 Years a Slave makes the third out of three movies of his that got 5/5 from me. But I also want Martin Scorsese to win because his direction of The Wolf of Wall Street is so amazing because he is taking the piss out of so much and it is beautiful. And yeah, I haven't seen Nebraska so I can't comment on Alexander Payne and well...not a fan of either David O. Russell or American Hustle. Apart from the fact that they rhyme. Whenever I say "American Hustle by David O. Russell" I automatically feel like putting my hood up, getting out my grills and corn rows and start an underground rap career.
At least I took something away from that movie...
Friday, February 28, 2014
I won't go into a whole lot of detail, but tonight I'll be predicting the winners for the 'visual' awards (Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Editing and Best Achievement in Visual Effects), the 'bests' awards (Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year and Best Documentary, Feature) and the writing awards (Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published). Remember: Red = the longshot, Orange = the predicted winner, Green = who I want to win.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki - Gravity / Bruno Delbonnel - Inside Llewyn Davis / Phedon Papamichael - Nebraska / Roger Deakins - Prisoners / Phillipe Le Sourd - The Grandmaster
Remember that time when Emmanuel Lubezki didn't win best cinematographer for The Tree of Life? Does anyone remember that travesty? The Academy has a lot of atoning to do, and I can definitely see them righting their wrongs this year by giving him the award for his brilliant, transcendent work in Gravity. I still haven't seen Prisoners but maaaaan, Roger Deakins must be getting fairly annoyed with all these nominations he's getting without actually winning. I still can't believe he lost for Skyfall, but, well, this looks like another year that he'll go empty handed.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Forgive me if this year's awards nerdism has been a little slight compared to previous years. Normally I'd attribute this to not being able to watch most of the films before the Oscars, but since I finally moved to a place that has three multiplexes and three other smaller cinemas, I have no excuse (except in the case of Nebraska, which is only playing in Auckland and Wellington so I won't see that until DVD time). And unlike the past couple of years, I've been much more into this year's awards season because I think there's a few races that remain wide open - even the bigger categories (I still have my prayer circle for Leo going, just tweet out something with #prayercircleforleo and we can make a movement). So yeah, as per usual, I'll roll out my 55% informed predictions, but I don't have the usual pictures to go with them (like Smiling Silva, 'Overjoyed' David and Loopy Looper) because I'm lazy and couldn't be bothered figuring out three photos for them. Instead, I have colours, because that's totally original. To add to the originality, they're traffic light colours, and here's how they work:
Red - The longshot, the outsider who pretty much won't be getting their name called out.
Orange - The real prediction, the one who will probably get their name called out.
Green - Who I really want to win.
Tonight, I'll be looking at the Sound categories (Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures - Original Song, and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures - Original Score) and the Design categories (Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Make-Up and Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Costume Design). As we get through the predictions, I promise there'll be some of my famous prediction poetry. Because I'm secretly Shakespeare.
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips / Gravity / The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug / Inside Llewyn Davis / Lone Survivor
I'm not sure about anyone else, but did anyone kinda forget that Lone Survivor was a thing? It comes out in NZ today, and I was genuinely surprised at when the trailer popped up before a couple of movies I went to go and see. It was strange to see it pushed so much for awards contention, considering it looks like just another Mark Wahlberg film, and well, it came out on the other side worse off, and has it's place in the two sound categories. Will it win big? Unlikely. This is definitely going all to Gravity, because the sound in that is INSANE. It is probably in my top three aspects of that film (there's a long, long list of stuff I love about that film). Just as a side note: isn't it sad how little love Inside Llewyn Davis got? I just saw it yesterday and while I wasn't taken by the whole film, it was impeccably made and Oscar Isaac gave a perfect performance (then again, the acting category was so packed this year).