2014 Oscar Nominations Not-Remotely-Live Blog

Oscar Nominations

I wasn’t quite organised enough to have a liveblog up and running when the Oscar nominations were announced this lunchtime but I made myself a post so I’m damn well going to put something in it. I will forgo listing all the nominations as they can be found everywhere else on the internet. The important facts are these…

  • Gravity and American Hustle lead the pack with ten nominations each, closely followed by 12 Years a Slave with nine. Nebraska has a pleasing six nominations and Her continues to taunt me with five nominations and a UK release that has yet to arrive.
  • Judi Dench and Meryl Streep are competing for the Best Actress award, a title that Dench has never won and one that Streep has taken twice and been nominated for fourteen(!!!) times.
  • The only nomination for Saving Mr. Banks is for its music and this upsets me greatly.
  • Blue is the Warmest Colour has completely failed to be nominated for Best Foreign Film and that is a tragedy as it clearly is the best foreign film and if you ask me the best film overall. So there.
  • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa has been nominated for an Oscar. Take that in. It’s for Best Makeup and Hairstyling but still, it just feels wrong. Weirdly American Hustle is not nominated in this category despite the hair being the best bit.
  • David O Russell and American Hustle continue to rhyme and sound incredibly satisfying.
  • Jonah Hill has received his second Oscar nomination. Who would have thought he’d ever be an Oscar contender considering his former career in broad comedies? Ditto for Matthew McConaughey who has moved so far away from his Romantic Comedy background he is barely recognisable.
  • Best Live Action Short is not normally a category I can comment on but somehow I have seen nominee The Voorman Problem twice and it is worthy of the win. The short stars Martin Freeman as a psychiatrist called to a prison to deal with an inmate who is convinced that he is God (Tom Hollander). It is short, clever, funny, and has famous people in it.
  • There are really only three nominees for Best Film. For the past three years I have seen the winner of the top prize at the previous year’s London Film Festival therefore this year’s winner must come from the films I saw back in October. The real list of nominees is as follows:

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her

Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

Let’s meet back here on 2nd/3rd March to discuss the winners.

Philomena – LFF Film Review

Philomena

Ah, Judi Dench. Does it get any better than seeing her take the lead role in a film? I have a great love for the Dame and was very excited to get to see her take the title role in Philomena. The film is based upon the true story of an Irish Catholic woman’s search for the son she was forced to give up as an unmarried mother. Despite trying to find him for years she has had no success due to lack of co-operation from the nuns who took her child away. On her son’s fiftieth birthday she finally tells her daughter about the missing member of their family and together they approach Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) who is looking for a human interest story to gain a foothold back in journalism.

Thanks to the efforts of Sixsmith, largely driven by a need for a success rather than any emotional attachment to the story, Philomena and Martin trace her son from Ireland to America and go on a transatlantic journey in pursuit of the truth. Along the way Martin softens towards Philomena’s plight and they connect over the voyage of discovery despite often coming to clashes due to differing backgrounds and impatience with one another’s religious beliefs. Martin becomes increasingly sympathetic as you see just how distressed he becomes at the way Philomena has been treated and the fact that he ends up taking greater offence even than she does at the crimes of the Church.

Director Stephen Frears has had a mixed bag of films in recent years with the likes of The Queen and Tamara Drewe but with Philomena he is back on top form. Despite a slightly shaky start during which not all the jokes were landing the film gradually warmed up the audience with the laughs coming much more easily as the film went on. Co-writer Steve Coogan was for a change more of the straight man as it was Judi Dench who got the lion’s share of the killer lines. Admittedly sometimes this was as simple as hearing Dench swear, because seeing older characters use curse words is always good for an easy laugh, but often it was more through her excellent portrayal of a woman who can wax lyrical about the salad cart at a Harvester or recall in detail the plot of the romance novel she has been reading. Philomena is a vibrant character and not merely a deperate victim of curcumstance.

Philomena is not an out-and-out comedy however as the story being told is a complicated one involving the forced separation of a mother and child. Some of the discoveries made in America were heartwarming and others heartbreaking. I am not ashamed to admit that this film brought about my first tears of the festival. It must have been the lack of sleep…

Not quite perfect but a funny and emotional film that give Judi Dench’s acting chops a too infrequent showcase. Steve Coogan co-stars in his fourth excellent film of the year showing he is far more than just Alan Partridge. I laughed, I cried, I text my mum and sister to ensure they go and see it.

Philomena screens at the festival on the 16th, 17th and 19th October and is in UK cinemas on 1st November 2013.

BFI London Film Festival 2013

Skyfall – Teaser Trailer

Give me an evening with nothing to do and the new teaser trailer for Skyfall, James Bond’s 23rd outing, and naturally animated .gifs and videos get made. It is nature’s way. Before indulging me familiarise yourself with the teaser below:

What is the first thing that springs to mind upon watching this trailer? What recent cultural phenomenon has clearly influenced the latest James Bond film? Coronation Street of course! The Weatherfield tram crash has been recreated by Skyfall‘s director Sam Mendes using a tube train and it almost looks as good as the stunt created on an ITV1 budget. If you need side by side animated .gif comparison we have you covered:

The second thing my brain thought upon seeing this teaser was that it simply isn’t centred around Judi Dench enough. I have made my expectations for Skyfall pretty clear and expect much more Dench in the finished film. I have tweaked the trailer a little to better reflect what I hope the final film will be like.

Who doesn’t prefer Judi Dench looking at things to Daniel Craig running around and shooting things? Oh.

Judi Dench as M 1995 – 2012(?)

24th November 1995 – 26th October 2012

“You always were a cunning linguist, James.”

Rumour has it, and rumour it shall remain until I see Dench die, that Judi Dench will play M for the last time in Skyfall as her character is going to be killed off.

If this turns out to be true I will watch Skyfall up until Dench’s death before running from the cinema screaming.

Oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT! Possibly.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Review

In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel eight British pensioners are tempted away from their native country with the promise of a free flight to India and the chance to live out their retirements in a luxury hotel. On arrival they find the hotel is in disrepair and run by a young man called Sonny (Dev Patel). Over time the group grow to either love or loathe their new home, Sonny battles to keep his vision of an extraordinary retirement home afloat and each senior citizen goes on their own unique journey.

With such a large cast of British acting royalty the film is at risk of feeling fragmented as at least seven separate stories are told, but somehow it works. The various characters are each seeking something different; a lost love, sex, life after the loss of a partner, a new hip, a rich husband or to save their marriage. What links them together, and highlights their differences, is India itself. The country is photographed beautifully and the film is filled with vibrant colours, a myriad of sounds, and various exotic smells. Perhaps the smells were only in my mind. The characters learn to cope with their new surroundings with varying degrees of success, some thriving amongst the new experiences and others shying away from the terrifying world outside the hotel.

The various story threads bring with them a nice mix of humour, drama and even a little romance. The trailer may have sold the film as a slightly faster paced comedy than it is, but The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel still has plenty of laughs spread across its running time. What the film also offers, that perhaps the trailer does not showcase enough, is plenty of heartfelt moments and plots that go a little deeper than most light comedies allow. It doesn’t hurt that every role is filled by a beloved British face, from Judi Dench to Maggie Smith, from Bill Nighy to Tom Wilkinson, and from Penelope Wilton to Celia Imrie. With talent like this given the rare opportunity to strut their stuff in leading roles the two-hour running time flies by and at the end I wanted to check into the Marigold Hotel and stay a little while longer.

With an older cast and a gentler approach to comedy than is normally seen on the big screen, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not going to excite everyone. I overheard a fellow critic at my screening suggesting that perhaps it would be preferred by an older audience, but speaking as a 23-year-old I recommend this film as proof that you don’t have to be the same age as the cast to find this film funny.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a gentle comedy with a lot of heart. The visuals were stunning and cast of British legends were wonderful to watch in their element. It was enough to make me want to whisk Judi Dench off to India and retire in a dilapidated hotel.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is on general release on 24th February 2012.

Are You Old Enough for Racism?

Last night I was invited along to a screening of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film with a trailer so filled with British ‘National Treasures’ that I nearly fell over myself with excitement. As someone who only falls over themselves once a week, this was no mean feat. I can’t tell you whether I liked the film or not, but I can bore you with something interesting* I noticed over at the BBFC. Just try to stop me.

The BBFC has rated The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as 12A and in their consumer advice say that the film “contains strong language, moderate sex references and racist remarks.” I was surprised to see racist remarks highlighted as a reason parents may not want their children to see a film, though I’m not sure why as racism is of course vile and reprehensible. I’m not afraid to take a widely supported and uncontroversial stand.

Digging deeper, as only someone with too much time on their hands does, I found over at the Parents BBFC website guidelines for what sort of language the BBFC will allow at 12A:

Discriminatory language may be present but will not be endorsed by the work as a whole. Aggressive use of discriminatory language (for example homophobic or racist terms) is unlikely to be acceptable at ‘12’ or ‘12A’ unless it is clearly condemned.

So there you have it, you can only hear racist slurs which are not clearly condemned when you are at least 15 years old. I suppose the aim is to not expose the nation’s children to endless streams of fully endorsed racism until they are old enough to feel sufficiently outraged. Makes sense to me.

Interesting* also to note that American History X, a film about neo-Nazis and filled with racism so strong it borders on the unwatchable, has no mention of racism in its consumer advice from the BBFC. Hmm.

There you have it, a series of facts strung together into something almost resembling a coherent dialogue. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go and wrestle with the Oscar Nomination live-stream again.

*Debatable

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Trailer

If there’s one type of actor I love it is an older English actor, the more honours the better. Put a Dame in a cast list and I will be queuing up on opening night. There’s something about an actor with a huge career behind them who continues to produce quality work that I find irresistible… in a cinematic sense of course.

When I heard about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a comedy about seven British pensioners having a romp in India, I could hardly believe my eyes. Dames all over the place! Meet me after the trailer:

 

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How much fun does that look? Providing the best jokes aren’t all in this trailer it looks like we have a British comedy starring a plethora of our older stars, showing the young up-and-comers how it’s done. Even more exciting is that this film stars my all time favourite “National Treasure”, or rather an amazing combination of six. With a cast like this I feel the trailer should simply list the cast while rousing music plays, think Burn After Reading.

Sorry Ronald Pickup, I have no idea who you are.

No. If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it.

My Week With Marilyn – Review

Before we get onto the film I’d like to tell you a story about how I found the Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford. Standing in line at the Odeon we noticed that the cinema wasn’t even showing My Week With Marilyn, clearly we were at the wrong Odeon. At this moment two women in the queue abandoned the cinema with one saying to their friend, “there’s still time to catch Marilyn.” Presuming that they meant the film and that they were heading for t’other Odeon we stalked them, darting from tree to lamppost to remain unseen. After a longer than expected stealth walk the two women lead us to a Picturehouse we didn’t realise existed. I love a good Picturehouse and this was no exception: lovely décor and sitting on the back row we had enough leg room to do the can-can had the need arisen. Lovely cinema. ANECDOTE OVER

My Week With Marilyn covers one week of production of the Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) directed The Prince and the Showgirl, as the star Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) clashes with her director and finds an ally in 3rd assistant director Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). The much-disputed facts come from the memoirs of the real life Colin Clark so the film takes on a very subjective view of events.

As the film begins we are introduced to Clark, an eager young man with a dream of working in the movies, and the family connections to make it happen. Before long he has gotten himself a job on Lawrence Olivier’s new film, a job allowing him to interact with Dame Sybil Thorndike (played with no effort needed by Dame Judi Dench) and flirt with costumer Lucy (Emma Watson at her more convincing). At this point the film is playing as a enjoyable piece of British period cinema, everyone having fun with their roles, particularly Branagh, and the sense of anticipation at the impending arrival of Monroe was shared by characters and audience alike.

When Monroe arrives everyone holds their breath; while Monroe herself could turn heads, Michelle Williams so captures her essence that it is a marvel to behold. I still can’t decide whether or not footage of the real thing was slipped in as there were moments when Williams simply became Monroe. It is more than an imitation, it is an embodiment.

Having said all that Monroe frustrated me at first, her diva-like behaviour as she was constantly late to set seemed unjustifiable and left me far from sympathetic. It was only later as Marilyn and Colin became close that I began to understand this ephemeral character. With filming stressful Marilyn starts to depend on Colin, bunking off with him and refusing to sleep without him by her side. At this point Williams is able to show the severe vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe and brought some much-needed depth to the character. At various points the script tried to veer Marilyn towards cliché but Williams always managed to steer clear.

As essentially the lead, Eddie Redmayne as Colin was not the most dynamic of characters. Rather than do anything of interest Colin only ever seemed to have things happen to him. Not terrible in itself but I feel like Redmayne has a lot more to offer than this film gave him scope for. The only other true stand-out performance alongside Williams was from Kenneth Branagh who was gleefully camped up for his role as the great Sir Lawrence Olivier. Whenever Branagh was on-screen the film was infinitely better.

While a lot of fun My Week With Marilyn doesn’t have a lot going on beneath the surface. As the epilogue tells you at the end, this week was not the most significant for either Olivier or Monroe. Perhaps it was for Colin, but I’d have rather spent more time watching the two legends go head to head and struggle to work together. Besides, how can you ever sympathise with anyone who lets Emma Watson down?

Skyfall – Expectations and Reality

Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Expectations
With M’s past coming back into the present we are treated to flashbacks covering her career as a spy and ultimately Judi Dench tools up and joins Daniel Craig’s Bond on a mission. With years of experience under her belt, M teaches Bond some new tricks and in a gruesome torture scene shows that she has a looser moral code than 007.

When they have an old foe cornered, Bond’s life is threatened in a climactic showdown only to be rescued by M who displays some awesome martial arts skills, think Yoda in Attack of the Clones. Exhausted, Bond and M share a tender moment amongst the carnage as the credits roll.

Reality
M briefs Bond on the situation with a concerned look on her face. Throughout the film she follows his progress offering a few quips along the way, hopefully somehow topping “cunning linguist” from Tomorrow Never Dies. At the end she congratulates Bond with some cheeky banter before the credits roll.