Archive for February, 2016

It’s an interesting year. Only one film is a true, ground-breaking masterpiece, but all of the films in the mix are good – very good. Common wisdom seems to suggest that the one that I found least brilliant is going to triumph on the night in the top two categories, but by my reckoning, the best film of the year is going to take home six Oscars – no mean feat for a bonkers action movie that is the third sequel to a crazy little unregulated Ozploitation flick from the late 70s.

Listen to the Podcast version of this stuff here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/movieland/id668507582?mt=2

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Bear Story

Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: World of Tomorrow

SOUND EDITING

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

ORIGINAL SONG

SHOULD WIN: ‘Earned It’ – Fifty Shades of Grey

‘Manta Ray’ – Racing Extinction

‘Simple Song No. 3’ – Youth

WILL WIN: ‘Till it Happens to You’ – The Hunting Ground

‘Writing’s on the Wall’ – Spectre

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Burwell’s score for Carol is perfect. But Morricone is old, the maestro of western scores, and only has an “honorary” Oscar.

Thomas Newman – Bridge of Spies

SHOULD WIN: Carter Burwell – Carol

WILL WIN: Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

Johann Johannsson – Sicario

John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

VISUAL EFFECTS

This will be where Star Wars gets one – or will Mad Max: Fury Road get this too?

Ex Machina

SHOULD WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

WILL WIN: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

COSTUME DESIGN

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

FILM EDITING

If The Big Short wins here, then the whole night may go a different way. But until that happens:

The Big Short

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: The Revenant

Sicario

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The best category of the night. All deserve the award. What a year for adaptations!

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay – The Big Short

Nick Hornby – Brooklyn

Phyllis Nagy – Carol

Drew Goddard – The Martian

Emma Donoghue – Room

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

It would be deeply embarrassing if the academy voters tried to “give one to black artists” in this year of The Diversity Oscars, only to see the white authors of Straight Outta Compton ascend the stage. Awkward!

Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen – Bridge of Spies

Alex Garland – Ex Machina

Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauce, and Josh Cooley – Inside Out

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff – Straight Outta Compton

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Alicia Vikanda plays a leading role in The Danish Girl and should have been nominated in the Lead Actress category – or at least submitted for it. She should not win a supporting Oscar, but she will.

SHOULD WIN: Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara – Carol

Rachel McAdams – Spotlight

WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Again, there were better supporting performances this year – including John Cusack, for example, in Love and Mercy. Tom Hardy would deserve it, but Sly will get it.

Christian Bale – The Big Short

SHOULD WIN: Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone – Creed

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Really, the Best Actor of 2015 was Paul Dano in Love and Mercy, and he’s not nominated. Fassbender is the best of a very misguided, incomplete list. But it’s “Leo’s year,” right?

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo

Matt Damon – The Martian

WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

SHOULD WIN: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Saoirse Ronan made Brooklyn work in an old-fashioned star vehicle but Brie Larson made you believe she was the mother of that kid – plus everything else.

Cate Blanchett – Carol

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Brie Larson – Room

Jennifer Lawrence – Joy

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Amy

Cartel Land

The Look Of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

SHOULD WIN: Anamolisa 

Boy and the World

WILL WIN: Inside Out

Shaun The Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Colombia – Embrace of the Serpent

France – Mustang

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Hungary – Son of Saul

Jordan – Theeb

Denmar – A War

DIRECTING

Up until the Director’s Guild Awards, I thought George Miller was going to win here. Now I think the DGA winner will, giving him two in a row (he won this category last year for Birdman).

Adam McKay – The Big Short

SHOULD WIN: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

WILL WIN: Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant

Lenny Abramson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

BEST FILM

My opinions here have been previously expressed and haven’t changed. The Revenant is gorgeous, but Mad Max: Fury Road is a game-changing cinematic masterpiece.

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

SHOULD WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

WILL WIN: The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Enjoy the Oscars folks!

12370750_1534849806835524_1592610361207727068_o*1/2 (out of five)

Dakota Johnson has such a fresh, engaging, likeable screen presence that she single-handedly manages to sublimate the impulse to rip your cinema seat out of the floor and hurl it through the screen while watching the horribly named How To Be Single, a Friday-Night-Girls-Night-Out Warner Brothers / New Line / MGM by-product that is impressively more contrived and vacuous than the other post-Bridemaids cash-ins that have rained down on multiplexes since that film made nearly two hundred million dollars in 2011.

Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) plays Alice, a young woman who essentially drops her sweet beau Josh (are they all named Josh?) at the start of the film because, among other things, she hasn’t hiked the Grand Canyon. Moving to New York, she is quickly educated by a co-worker, Robin (Rebel Wilson) in “how to be single”. These lessons basically consist of aiming – every night of the week – to get so hammered that sex with a stranger is inevitable, and if you can’t remember the details – of the sex or even the stranger – all the better. Waking up in a random apartment is a bonus.

Putting aside the astonishingly unsafe practices being advocated, and the blasé way in which they’re presented as fun fun fun, this unsustainable lifestyle only scratches the surface of how idiotically life in Manhattan is presented and how ludicrously each of the film’s many characters behaves, from how they talk and walk, dress, eat, drink, flirt and, particularly, work (the workplace scenes here are beyond a joke; “work” in this kind of movie – and in this movie in particular, which is a very bad example of its kind – is just a fancy room with extras in suits opening and closing their mouths silently, like guppies).

Wilson, Leslie Mann and – particularly sadly – the otherwise talented Alison Brie all flail embarrassingly in roles that are too badly written to possibly be acted well. Every man in the film is a plastic construction of vacant, inane banality. Yet somehow Johnson pulls Alice off. Her story is no less clichéd than the others, her dialogue no less asinine. Perhaps her post-Grey glow – and a natural, peaking screen charisma – have a halo effect; you can’t see the actual movie for her sunny trees.

Deadpool

Posted: February 16, 2016 in film, film reviews, movie, movie reviews
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image** (out of five)

Not so much a superhero movie as a super-anti-hero movie, Deadpool follows a low-rent fixer / mercenary / goon named Wade (Ryan Reynolds) who, after being transformed into an extremely pussy, pimply, putrid version of himself (but with endlessly regenerative healing powers) by a grim British villain named Ajax (the creepily named Ed Skrein), decides his hot mercenary-catering prostitute girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) won’t like him anymore, so sets out for revenge. Extreme carnage follows.

Supposedly extremely faithful to the source comic, Deadpool is deliberately self-conscious, self-referential and self-absorbed, both as character and film. It wears it’s naughtiness with pride, reveling in its over the top violence and its lead character’s extremely obnoxious personality; it also couldn’t be more satisfied with “breaking the fourth wall” over and again, having Wade / Deadpool address the camera / audience directly, and repeatedly exposing the film’s own existence as a fictional artifice, such as referencing the actors James McEvoy, Patrick Stewart and Ryan Reynolds himself in the context of playing characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while being a movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Geddit? It takes great self-satisfaction with all of this, but a reference isn’t a joke, and I didn’t find Deadpool – the movie or the character – funny at all. Indeed, as the story descended into Just Another Origin Story, I grew increasingly bored and antsy. The whole thing is like one big fart joke – it’s that obvious and that juvenile (despite being widely heralded as “R-Rated”). If you’re a fan of the comic, I guess you’ll be thrilled that the film has so much integrity; by the third act, I couldn’t wait for it to end. It’s competently made, no doubt, and Reynolds has strong presence, even hidden behind a gimp mask that covers his eyes and his mouth. That mouth covering supposedly gave the filmmakers endless opportunities to tweak their hero’s wisecracks; pity they’re all rather lame.

45years-ps-2*** (out of five)

Andrew Haigh’s third feature follows his second, Weekend (2011) in depicting an intimate portrait of two people in a relationship. In Weekend, that relationship was just beginning; here, it’s deep – forty-five years deep. That’s the anniversary looming at the end of the week for Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtney) and Kate’s planning a big party with all their friends. But at the beginning of the week, Geoff receives a letter (in the post!) that upsets the marriage’s careful balance, and causes Kate to question… well, pretty much everything.

Like in Weekend, Haigh favours a super-realist style, rarely using music, keeping his camera calm and mainly in close-up on Kate, whose story this most definitely is (there are scenes where, although talking, Geoff isn’t actually seen on camera). How much you feel pulled into her dilemma relies in large part on how much you can take away from Rampling’s silent, thoughtful gaze, as she goes about her week, increasingly distressed, but dealing with it in the way of the mature, tasteful English woman.

I started losing patience with it. After the umpteenth lingering shot of Rampling’s silent face, I was thinking, “Come on, cut already.” I found Weekend similarly indulgent. Rampling is extremely good in the role (and nominated for an Oscar) but her silent visage is just required to bear too much dramatic weight; the film is based on a short story, and I can imagine it working best in that format.

Courtney is also excellent, and the setting – the foggy, canal-strewn countryside of Norfolk, with occasional forays into the town of Norwich – is interesting and used well (if, like Rampling’s face, a little too much). The film definitely has intriguing things to say about all sorts of big things: ageing, marriage, being British; indeed, ageing in a British marriage. The couple live in an old-fashioned way that will shock the digi-generation, spending their nights listening to classical music with books and a digestif. I think at least one of them would have a computer – and the internet, which would alter the story significantly – but their world, and the film, is closed, chilly, and rooted in the past.

Opens Feb 18 in Australia.

Now that I’ve seen all eight nominees for this year’s Best Picture, here’s my ranked list, from favorite to least favorite. Bear in mind, they’re all very good this year.

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
Room
Spotlight
Brooklyn
The Martian
Bridge of Spies
The Revenant

Your comments most welcome.

11201971_ori****1/2 (out of five)

Romantic, moving, embracing and thoroughly old-fashioned, Brooklyn is a gorgeous film centred by a major performance by Saoirse Ronan, who is making no mistakes in fulfilling the promise she showed when she received her first Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress, for Atonement, in 2007, when she was thirteen years old.

Now she’s nominated for Best Actress for Brooklyn, and, were Brie Larson not the favourite for Room, it would have to be Ronan’s to lose. She carries this terrific picture, appearing in almost every scene, and at times director John Crowley simply frames her face in full close-up, in silent contemplation, and lets her eyes – and, thus, her inner life – let you know everything you need.

Ronan plays Eilis (pronounced Aylish), a young woman for whom there seem to be no job prospects in her native Ireland. A priest in America sponsors her to travel there, and she takes a passage to Brooklyn, where she learns to overcome homesickness, learn a profession, and open up her heart to a young man (an amazing turn by Emory Cohen).

There are other performers in the film – Julie Walters is wonderful, just wonderful, as the head of a small boarding house for young women in which Eilis lives, and so-hot-right-not Domhnall Gleeson gives a subtle and dignified performance – but I cannot over-emphasize the degree to which Ronan bears the weight of this fine movie and is primarily responsible for its success. Just as Crowley, in every way, unashamedly uses the romantic filmmaking language of the fifties, so too does his movie embrace its own nature as an old-school “star vehicle”. It lives or dies on Ronan’s performance, and it definitely lives, with energy and beauty and grace. Nick Hornby has done a brilliant job of adapting Colm Tóibín’s novel, and all the art departments have done a sterling job in actualising an Ireland and Brooklyn of the 1950s but also of the romantic mind. A stunner.

steve-jobs-movie-poster-800px-800x1259*** (out of five)

I don’t know this for a fact, but Michael Fassbender may say more dialogue in Steve Jobs than any actor in any feature film in history. He never stops talking and he’s in every scene. Compare this to his Oscar competitor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who spends The Revenant grunting, spitting, huffing, crying, moaning and groaning, but rarely says a word. Comparing them as performances is a little like comparing the chicken and the ibis – they’re both birds, but…

Fassbender plays (very well) a Steve Jobs of the mind – specifically of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s mind. Jobs walks and talks, continually joined and left by a succession of people important to him, as he prepares for three product launches (I won’t mention which ones as they’re kind of fun surprises if you’re a big nerd). If you’re familiar with The West Wing the style will be very apparent. Almost all of these interactions are dialogues, so you’ve got Fassbender with Kate Winslet as his longstanding and fiercely loyal marketing executive Joanna Hoffman, Fassbender with Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Sculley, Fassbender with Katherine Waterston as an ex-girlfriend and three actresses playing his daughter Lisa over the years, and, most excitingly, Fassbender and Seth Rogan playing (very well) Steve Wozniak.

If you don’t know who Wozniak is there’s probably no enjoyment for you in this film, and, indeed, the biggest strike against it is that it doesn’t have any compelling reason to exist. Jobs was adequately covered on the big screen in Jobs (2013) and this film doesn’t add anything new to the conversation other than to make Jobs look like a big dick. Sorkin’s writing is often self-conscious and Danny Boyle’s direction often lapses into melodrama and over-simplification; at times both artists, great when at their best, seem to be working off bullet points. The project nearly died many times over when directors (such as David Fincher) and actors (such as Leonardo DiCaprio) walked away (see The Sony hacks for all the details) and it feels like it was only actually kept alive – and made – to assuage Sorkin’s ego. It has very little mass appeal and will probably be remembered as a curiosity and little more. Jobsians will be disgusted at what is, pretty much, a straightforward character assassination and non-techheads could easily become bored.

But Fassbender is electrifying and pulls you through if you’re interested at all in technology, the Apple computer story myth, or the history of the personal computer. He makes this role look easy – and, trust me, it was the hardest gig of its year. Sorry, Leo, that’s the truth.