Monthly Archives: February 2013

Oscar Predictions!

And with less than 24 hours to go I scoot under the wire with my predictions list. Presented in absolutely fabulous monochrome I give to you my “should win” and my “will win” film for each category in reverse category order to the official Oscars website. (Because, why not?)

Bear in mind there are some films I haven’t seen, tragically this does include The Master and all of the documentaries. For those categories I will make random guesses and see whether the fates favour me. However I make no apology for not having seen Snow White and the Huntsman. Here goes!

Best Original Screenplay

Should: Moonrise Kingdom

Will: Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay

Should and Will: Argo

Visual Effects

Should and Will: Life of Pi

Sound Mixing

Should and Will: Les Miserables

Sound Editing

Should and Will: Django Unchained

Short Film (I wish I didn’t have to guess here but I couldn’t find anywhere showing them that I could get to)

Should: Asad

Will: Death of a Shadow

Short Animated Film

Should and Will: Paperman

Production Design

Should: Les Miserables

Will: Lincoln

This is a very long blog post, so here’s a stock photo of bananas.Bananas Floating in Water

Well there you go Ang Lee, they do float!

Moving on….

Best Original Song

Should and Will: Skyfall

Original Score

Should: Life of Pi

Will: Argo

Hair and Makeup

Should: Hitchcock

Will: Les Miserables

Best Foreign Film

Should: Amour

Will: NO

Film Editing

Should: Argo

Will: Zero Dark Thirty

Documentary Short

Should and WIll: Inocente

Documentary Feature

Should and Will: Searching for Sugar Man

Best Director

Should: Michael Haneke

Will: David O Russell

Costume Design

Should and Will: Lincoln

Cinematography

Should: Life of Pi

Will: Django Unchained

Animated Feature Film

Should and Will: Brave

AND NOW THE BIG FIVE

This calls for a solemn and dramatic image of a statuette.oscar-guy

Ahh that feels much better.

Best Supporting Actress

Should and Will: Anne Hathaway

Best Actress

Should: Emanuelle Riva

Will: Jessica Chastain

Best Supporting Actor

Should and Will: Christopher Waltz

Best Actor

Should and Will: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Film (a drumroll please)

Should: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Will: Argo

I guess that’s my hand declared, now to sit back and watch.Comment if you agree/disagree!

To The Wonder – 2012

ImageTerrence Malick’s new film is distinctly more accessible than his three-hour epic The Tree of Life. To the Wonder comes across as a stream of consciousness, more poetry than film. Told mainly from the point of view of Marina (Olga Kurylenko) the film explores love in its many forms.

Many reviews have spoken of this as a “B side” to The Tree of Life, however I see it as more of a companion piece, the female counterpart of The Tree of Life. Mothers and daughters are estranged, sex is explored through vulnerability as opposed to lust. The cinematography is light and free, totally immersive. The film communicates almost entirely in voiceover, characters share their thoughts as scenes either related or contrasting play on screen. The secondary arc of a priest searching for God (Javier Bardem) plays nicely into the main plot; even divine love is difficult, enlightening and destructive, full of hope and anxiety.

Emotionally the film is confusing, the resounding message to simply love seems at odds with the turmoil experienced by all those characters who try to love. However it seems that true rapture is only accessible through this pain, the colours of the film reflect the hope and despair respectively, golden cornfields and sunlight contrasted with night scenes that seem utterly desaturated highlighting the total loneliness. Both Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams give virtuoso performances, tender and subtle, both are engaging in their own magical ways.

The multilingual nature of the film takes a while to get used to but in the end becomes a soothing presence, the message can be understood entirely visually and so the voices almost fade to the background as if you were watching a music video rather than a film. You leave the cinema feeling refreshed and enlightened, yet all the while unsure of what you just watched.

Lawrence of Arabia – 1962

Today I sat down with a large bowl of popcorn to conquer a classic. Lawrence of Arabia.

Image

I don’t quite know where to start with this. I was totally stunned, in my recent task to watch this years Oscar nominees there was a certain kind of culture shock in moving from these clean, digitized, self-conscious films to a pure story in film. No flashy effects or witty repartee to fill the silences, just rich, sweeping scenery and a considered study of an extraordinary man.

What really amazed me though was how this film has not aged; it can be viewed today with the same wonder as when it was first released. In fact the only jarring moments of realisation I had were during the opening credits. (Namely the existence of full opening credits, as well as Alec Guinness’ name appearing without a “sir” next to it and the shock of seeing a title “introducing” Peter O’Toole). Speaking of Peter O’Toole, I found myself captivated by his performance, one of the most subtle and sensitive performances I think I’ve ever seen.

I was nervous that the film would drag, having just seen Lincoln I knew that one great performance does not a good film make. Yet these fears were promptly dismissed when I realised what had felt like fifteen minutes had in fact been nearly an hour of utterly breathtaking, captivating filmmaking. Boldly filmed with many a sweeping shot of a desert, set of course to a full orchestral score, the film doesn’t stray away from the hyperbolic; yet what other means could you use to tell the story of this man? An understated, minimalist piece would never do the character justice. The cinematography remains dynamic and interesting despite the majority of the film being shot in a desert in various tones of grey and brown. What is so beautiful is that in this film the desert is not “clean” as Lawrence so describes it, it is harsh, grainy gritty and so very real.

The Perks of being a Wallflower – 2012

wallflowerIt’s sad when a film you were looking forward to disappoints. This, for me, was the case with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of being a Wallflower. Having read the book only a few months ago, I was eager to see how this clearly sensitive writer would handle the story in a new medium. I’d heard lukewarm reviews of this film, mainly extolling that the film was “quaint” but would suit its target audience (emotional teenagers) down to the ground. I should have listened, however I blithely ignored this criticism; after all I epitomise the target audience. Surely I would at least enjoy it as a guilty pleasure?

No. Within twenty minutes of the film starting I had had my fill of witty, self-aware teenagers (and that’s saying something from the girl who owns a Dawson’s Creek box set). I feel that allowing the author to become the director was a fatal mistake. The film drags with long, awkward monologues taken directly from the book. Lines that were simple, glib phrases in the book are drawn out to become the emotional highpoint of a scene, accompanied with swelling pop music. It’s difficult not to cringe a little at these overwrought emotional contrivances. I couldn’t help but feel that someone less personally attached to the material could take a more reasoned, maybe even more filmic, approach and ironically lose less of the book’s essence.

The performances are generally average, apart from the genuinely funny, engaging and sensitive portrayal of Patrick from Ezra Miller. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson seem endlessly one-dimensional, perhaps more a fault of the clunky dialogue than the actors; both seem to spend inordinate amounts of time standing around looking uncomfortable. It’s unfortunate as both characters could have done with more dialogue to make them more believable.

Most of the deeper issues and relationships present in the novel are tragically glossed over, made to seem superficial compared to the slightly incestuous love pentangle Charlie (Lerman) winds up playing a part in. Lerman seems to be very keen to emphasise just how boring and annoying this eponymous “wallflower” really is and so the film lacks a protagonist that anyone can relate to. Its a shame, I feel that this book had the potential to become a great film, a teenage classic. As it is it will probably be consigned to the bowels of not-quite-funny-or-quirky films we all try to forget.

A comment on CGI

Recently I have watched two films which aptly demonstrate the great potential in both range and beauty when CGI is used sensitively and responsibly. Life of Pi and Paperman.

If you haven’t seen Paperman yet you should really go check it out.

What’s so fascinating about these two films is the difference of approach. Life of Pi has used CGI to create some of the most realistic and believable water ever seen on screen, as well as pushing the boundaries of creating lifelike creatures. Paperman however uses the same technology to create a whimsical portrayal of New York rendered in the style of paper cutouts and charcoal. The whole film, partly due to being in black and white seems to be an ink or charcoal drawing brought to life.

Life-of-Pi-Bioluminescent-Water

I feel like this is a step forwards for film; the pinnacle of realism has been reached for CGI. It no longer needs to be a slave to capturing photorealism but can now move gracefully into being a tool towards a much wider and more beautiful future. I can’t wait to see what appears in the next few years, we can now use computers to make the impossible totally lifelike or to capture the beauty of a charcoal line in motion.

As a sidenote: Paperman has given me much more hope for the future of Disney/Pixar who I’d largely lost faith in given their propensity to throw away their heritage in 2D animation and make mediocre CGI films and even yet more sequels for their classics (The Little Mermaid 3 we’re looking at you). Paperman is not only a brave step forward but a look back into the golden age of Disney.

Fantasia 2000

Fantasia 2000

Moonrise Kingdom – 2012

moonrise-kingdom

A whimsical film, most likely a polarising one. From the very start the cinematography is bold and challenging, self-consciously constructed and filled with oversaturated bright colours. Soon, however the film shows itself to be a warm and touching illustration of childhood.

But is exactly that; an illustration. More than a snapshot but less than a coming of age film. The self-aware and deliberate style of the opening reveals the whole film as a moving storybook, simple, symmetrical and with a limited colour palette. The characters follow suit, being suitably one dimensional throughout, with the amusing addition of a character known only as “social services”.

In fact the only two real characters are our protagonists, the two children who plot to run away together through pen-pal letters. These are the most inherently childish children I have seen in a film for many years. They are naïve, troubled, confused and frightened but they are not stupid as films so often portray them. The script plays to this world, the world where what adults dismiss as a spat between children is a real fight for truth and love to those involved. The children do not become adults, they parody them. There are echoes of Bugsy Malone as children seem to play at being adults, yet their struggles are for truly adult causes, self-determination, freedom and the ability to follow your heart.

I would recommend this film to almost anyone, I cannot guarantee that they will enjoy it but it is certainly a fascinating watch, a film that oddly continues to inspire my thoughts despite its apparent simplicity. Frankly I watched this as part of my personal goal to watch every single film nominated for any Oscar and I was shocked to find that such films as Silver Linings Playbook are higher in the Academy’s ranking than this odd shaped jewel.

I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
                                     Edgar Allan Poe