Oscars 2012: One Big Yawn of Agreement

The Oscars are clearly, and arbitrarily, the most important of all the award ceremonies yet coming as they do after a dozen of similar awards are given out to the same winners, by the time the Oscars finally arrive we are suffering from award season fatigue. This is where the desire for surprising winners comes in, despite The Artist, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer all being worthy winners writing about them winning the awards they were tipped to win isn’t all that exciting.

But is that the point? The Artist really was the best film of the past year and deserves to win all the awards it won, the list of winners is not surprising but for the first time in years it is hard to disagree with any of the choices. Let’s not gripe about predictability and just be happy that worthy winners won awards and that Eddie Murphy wasn’t the host.

I am happy that The Artist won five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Costume Design and Best Score) leaving Hugo to pick up all the technical awards. I am happy that A Separation won Best Foreign Language Film for being an amazing drama and that Rango won Best Animated Film despite being semi-grown-up. I’m happy that Woody Allen won an Oscar for the screenplay for Midnight in Paris and showed that he remains a relevant film-maker. I’m happy that Jim Rash co-won an award for co-writing The Descendants leaving amazing-but-almost-cancelled-sitcom Community with an Oscar winner amongst its cast. I’m happy that The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore won Best Animated Short Film because, as we all know, it is damned adorable.

What I am most happy about is Bret McKenzie won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Man or Muppet”. There has never been a more obvious (there was only one other nominee for a start) yet deserving win.

So there you have it, the 2012 Oscar awards have made me happy but weren’t very exciting. It was the award ceremony equivalent of eating a trifle (for me at least).

Out Now – 27th January 2011

The Descendants
With an overly confusing subplot about land ownership, Alexander Payne’s latest was in severe danger of losing me in its opening minutes. Luckily the main plot, in which a father reconnects with his two daughters as he hunts down the man who has been sleeping with his comatose wife (the affair was pre-coma, this isn’t Talk to Her), has enough humour and charm to save the film. From my review last October, “after the muddle at the start and a few awkward metaphors The Descendants comes together as a touching and hilarious family dramedy.”

Like Crazy
With a beautiful aesthetic, great cast, and improvised dialogue, Like Crazy is a naturalistic portrayal of a long distance relationship falling apart in spite of the deluded efforts of those involved. Sadly the realism of Like Crazy is almost too much, and I found myself as frustrated by the on-screen couple as I would be by any couple who are excessively in love and making a hash of it. My personal issues aside, this is not a terrible film and worth a look to see the moment that Felicity Jones truly arrives as an actress. Read the full review for more words, sentences, etc.

The Grey
Two hours of Liam Neeson fighting off wolves in Alaska. I had to choose between seeing this and going to a pub quiz, I think I made the right choice. SPOILER ALERT: Sarah Palin saves the day in the end, shooting down the wolves in her helicopter before throwing Neeson over her shoulder and carrying him away.

A Monster in Paris
French animated film about a monster (or giant flea) who falls in love with a cabaret singer and develops his musical abilities.

Intruders (limited release)
I think this is a horror movie starring Clive Owen in which a monster from his childhood starts to harass his young daughter. I can’t be quite sure though as the synopses on IMDb and Wikipedia are vague and confusing. HANG ON! Thanks to the BBFC I can now confirm that Intruders, “is a contemporary horror film about a monster that steals children’s faces.” As someone whose worst phobia is people with no faces I don’t think I could take this film.

House of Tolerance (limited release)
Your sexy film quota is filled this week by a French film focussing on the dynamics between women working in a Parisian brothel in the early 20th century. Expect sex, subtitles and presumably some more sex.

Acts of Godfrey (special release)
Who cares about the plot when this is the first film to be written entirely in rhyming couplets? Sadly only showing at the Vue in Shepherds Bush, you’ll need to make a special trip to see this unique British film.

Patience (After Sebald) (limited release)
Patience (After Sebald) is a multi-layered film essay on landscape, art, history, life and loss by the acclaimed documentary film-maker Grant Gee. It is an exploration of the work and influence of German writer WG Sebald, told via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking his most famous book The Rings of Saturn.”

Mercenaries (limited release)
“Andy Marlow, an ex British S.A.S serviceman turned mercenary, is sent into the Balkans after a military coup has arisen to rescue a U.S ambassador and his aide.”

2012 Golden Globe Awards or: Hey Look a Dog in a Bow Tie

When a dog is wearing a bow tie you know it’s a special occasion. The reason Uggie from The Artist is all dressed us is that it was the Golden Globes last night, and as they are the first award ceremony of the year we have to pretend that they matter. At least the Golden Globes has Ricky Gervais on hand to entertain and offend everyone.

My predictions were hit and miss as usual but overall I’d say the awards went to the right people. The Artist, everyone’s favourite film right now (I did a small poll last night), received Best Comedy/Musical, Best Actor (Comedy/Musical) and Best Original Score (sorry Kim Novak) and should have won every other award going.

The Descendants, a film I enjoyed but for some reason don’t want to win any awards (I’m complicated), did very well for itself taking home Best Drama and Best Actor (Drama), leaving the Oscar battle as a dead heat between The Descendants‘ George Clooney and The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin.

Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams both won Best Actress awards, seemingly proving that a great performance in a mediocre not-quite-biopic beats any other effort this year. It still remains to be explained to me just how My Week With Marilyn fits into the Comedy/Musical category. Williams and Streep should have gone head to head in the drama category, and then lost to Tilda Swinton, in my achingly pompous opinion.

A quick shout out for Christopher Plummer winning Best Supporting Actor, Woody Allen winning Best Screenplay and A Separation winning Best Foreign Language Film; three worthy but unexpected wins. Also worth mentioning Madonna’s allegedly awful film W.E. picking up the award for Best Original Song In A Motion Picture which is a token award for a film that may never win anything again, unless another awards body wants to be able to invite Madonna along to their parties.

On the TV front all is well with Best Drama, Comedy/Musical and Miniseries going to deserving series Homeland, Modern Family and Downton Abbey respectively. The fact that I have actually seen all three is almost too much excitement for me this early on a Monday.

On the acting side it’s not too surprising to see Kate Winslet taking home an award, though she may have done better work in the film catagory this year (see Carnage). Peter Dinklage and Clare Danes rightly won in their categories and Matt Le Blanc picked up Best Actor In A TV Comedy/Musical as if to show how weak that category was this year. All that remains to be said is that Damien Lewis was robbed of his rightful award by Kelsey Grammer and Zooey Deschanel by Laura Dern.

For a full list of winners click here, and for a picture of Uggie with his very own Golden Globe look no further:

He thinks he’s people!

The Best is Yet to Come: 2012

As much as we are obliged to look back over the year just gone, we are obliged to look ahead at the year just beginning. It’s always exciting to look at the next twelve months and all the exciting treats that are coming to our screens. Below are my personal picks of the films worth seeing in 2012, and I’m hoping there will be many more besides, a few gems I haven’t even heard of yet. Continue reading

2012 Golden Globes Nominations

With awards season truly hotting up we are treated with the nominations for the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. They’re an interesting bunch, a lot of the more challenging and/or smaller films have been passed by. The Los Angles Times has it spot on when they say that the nominations seem to recognise those works featuring the A-list actors, more accessible films and less dark dramas. No Tyrannosaur or Like Crazy to be found below.

What you will find is my gut reaction and my opinions for each category (apart from Best Original Song and Best Original Score as that is not my strong suit) whether you want it or not. Continue reading

Mild Concern BFI London Film Festival Awards 2011

Hello and welcome to the second annual Mild Concern BFI London Film Festival awards to celebrate and berate various films screened at the 55th BFI London Film Festival. Today I will be sitting in my tuxedo handing out the feted awards, the Raised EyebrowsTM, to any film which grabbed our attention in a positive or, equally likely, negative way.

Best Use of SymbolismWe Need to Talk About Kevin
A favourite to win a few bigger awards this year, even Best of the FestTM, but ultimately a few surprises took the crown. Instead Kevin is recognised for the amount of time poor Tilda Swinton is cleaning red off of her hands, her house and her car. Red is everywhere in Kevin. It’s not subtle but it’s certainly effective.

Best Use of Jon SnowCoriolanus
Jon Snow’s cinematic appearances are few and far between, it has been too long since Zombie Farm, but they are always a treat. Here he plays a newsreader with some classic Shakespearean dialogue. Best bit of the film.

Best Use of Felicity JonesLike Crazy
As the official Mild Concern crush we had to give Felicity Jones a mention. She is at the top of her game in Like Crazy and the film gives her a chance to show her acting chops, and captures her in a gorgeous light throughout. The more I think about the film, the better it seems.

Totally a Play AwardCarnage
Carnage was a hell of a lot of fun but, with four speaking parts and a set consisting of two rooms, hasn’t gained much in transitioning from stage play to motion picture. You’d struggle to find a theatre gathering this stellar cast though so all is forgiven.

Most Improved Performer – George Clooney for The Descendants
At last year’s festival The American was a major low point in my week, it was a dull and pointless film. Thankfully George Clooney took my criticism and returned this year with two films getting rave reviews. The Descendants takes the award for one good reason: it’s the one I saw.

Most Prolific Performer – John C. Reilly for Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Terri
John C. Reilly has the unique distinction of having a major role in three quality films at this year’s festival. In every film he is a less than perfect father figure to a troubled young boy. Don’t be fooled into thinking he is just playing the same role again and again, each time he plays a distinct character proving that Reilly is not a one trick pony.

Struggling to Stay Awake Award (Documentary)Crazy Horse
Visually beautiful and with a few nice insights into a famous Parisian club, Crazy Horse is a documentary with nothing to say but plenty of time to spend not saying it. I checked the time three times during the screening, willing the film to end and trying to keep my eyes open.

Struggling to Stay Awake Award (Feature)Last Screening
With Last Screening my battle to keep my eyes open was lost and became a battle to maintain consciousness. A film about a serial killer shouldn’t be boring, this is completely unacceptable.

Biggest Affront to Germaine GreerTales of the Night
In a series of fairy tales women fail to be anything more than pathetic damsels in distress. With the actors within the film amending some of the stories they fail to acknowledge women as competent human beings and give the female characters any initiative. It’s as if Buffy never happened.

Best Mix of Tears and Titters/Best Comedy50/50
I laughed, I cried (almost) and I found Seth Rogan funny throughout a film for the first time. 50/50 manages to fill a film about cancer with humour without ever belittling the disease. Good work people.

Scared to Walk Home Award/Best DramaMartha Marcy May Marlene
Stealing Kevin‘s award is a harrowing tale of a young girl who has escaped from a modern-day cult. A brilliant debut feature for director Sean Durkin and a stellar introduction to Elizabeth Olsen. You won’t ever want to be left alone again.

Best DocumentaryInto the Abyss
Werner Herzog certainly knows how to put together a documentary. Here he presents the story of a triple homicide without comment, simply allowing the people involved to tell the story from their point of view. Includes a moving scene where a man starts to cry as he tells a story about a squirrel.

Best AnimationAlois Nebel
So far from cartoon animation this gorgeous Czech film is a truly adult feature. The rotoscoped performances and mixture of CGI effects with hand drawn images make for a real work of art. Still not sure what was going on though.

Best Short FilmThe Monster of Nix
In a similar vein the best short film mixes live-action, computer animation and hand-painted background to make a gorgeous short film which could easily be extended to a full feature. If you’re listening Rosto, we want an extra hour please.

Best of the FestThe Artist
With so many heavy films the best thing we saw all festival was a French silent film set in Hollywood as the talkies began. Invigorating my love for cinema and hopes for its future The Artist is so much fun you can’t help but fall in love with it. It also has a release date now, get ready to smile on 30th December 2011.

A Note For Film-makers:
To collect your award simply send us an email with the address you’d like it sending to and we’ll post it on as soon as we cobble something together. And in case you’re wondering how to incorporate the award into your marketing campaign, here’s an example using Coriolanus:

If you missed any of our reviews, all films covered can be found by clicking on the appropriate thumbnail below:

The Descendants – LFF Review

Alexander Payne returns seven years after Sideways with an adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel starring George Clooney as Matt King, a man with too much on his plate. Matt is in charge of choosing a buyer for a large area of ancestral land in Hawaii, a sale which will benefit his extended family financially while harming the unspoiled land. He is also dealing with a wife in a coma she will never wake from and two unruly daughters he hasn’t been alone with for seven years. When his oldest daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) reveals that his wife was having an affair Matt decides to hunt down her lover Brian before she dies.

If this all sounds a bit too much to take in, you know how I felt in the first twenty minutes; the situation with the ancestral land confused me and seemed completely irrelevant. Luckily it all tied together in the end and I almost understand what was going on now.

The story at the core of the film is the rebuilding of the relationship between Matt and Alex as they hunt down Brian. The one thing that unites this estranged pair is their hatred of Brian and the feeling of betrayal and anger towards their comatose mother/wife. Clooney is on fine form in the less than suave role, much better playing an oaf than trying to be cool like in last year’s The American, and Shailene Woodley certainly makes an impression as his bold daughter. Let’s put Woodley down for official one-to-watch status.

Payne is the master at making quality comedy dramas and hasn’t lost the knack since his last feature, after the muddle at the start and a few awkward metaphors The Descendants comes together as a touching and hilarious family dramedy.

Special mentions: Nick Krause for bringing heart and humour to a potentially bland role. Rob Huebel, from the amazing Childrens Hospital, for taking the smallest role and squeezing every last laugh from his few line. Beau Bridges for sporting the style made popular by his brother in The Big Lebowski. And finally, Jameson for not just sponsoring the London Film Festival but for getting their product into the film in full view.

The Descendants screens at the London Film Festival on the 23rd and 24th October 2011 and is in UK cinemas on 27th January 2012.

55th BFI London Film Festival

For the next week or so this post will be our hub for coverage of the 55th BFI London Film Festival. Any films we’ve seen have a thumbnail below linking to their review and the video player below will update itself to show the latest video from the BFI about the festival.

We’re trying to break the 20 film barrier this year, though it may well kill us.

Films reviewed:

Latest video coverage:

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