Everybody Wants Some!!

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**1/2

Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater’s bizarre follow-up to his multiple Oscar-nominated masterpiece Boyhood, seems almost deliberately obtuse, anachronistic and technically deficient. It is also, by the end, rather charming, which is its saving grace. For awhile – at least the first half hour – it feels like a total disaster.

It’s being promoted as “the spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused”, Linklater’s much loved 1993 film which introduced us to an astonishing range of young actors, including Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg and Jason London. I can’t help feeling that, while being associated with a Linklater project will get their feet in doors, the cast of the new film won’t be as immediately embraced, because their performances, collectively, are very weird. They’re all on the same page, but it’s a strange, over-the-top, cartoonish page that makes them less loveable than the stoned high school denizens of the earlier film.

Essentially, they’re playing archetypes bordering on stereotypes. Collectively, they’re a group of college kids – in the days leading up to the a start of the academic year – who live together because they’re on the school’s fabled baseball team. Individually, they’re the clown, the stoner, the southern dummy, the dandy, the know-it-all and so on, and all seem to have been directed by Linklater to play up the characteristics of their type as much as possible, to the detriment of actual characterisation.

The film is set in 1980, the lads all want to “get some” – sex – and the film’s politics are no more advanced than those of Porky’s (1981) which is, incidentally, a better movie, and has the benefit of looking more comfortable in its own period clothes.

I assume Linklater has made something autobiographical here, and maybe, in his memory, these guys have become huge, almost grotesque personalities which he’s cast and directed his actors to match. It makes for a very disconnected viewing experience. Thankfully, his lead actor, Blake Jenner, is allowed to let a touch of naturalism seep in, and when, in the film’s third act, he’s allowed to develop a romance with a freshman played by Zoe Deutch (who feels here like a new Anna Kendrick), we’re finally allowed in. For many it may be way too little, way too late.

THE FILM MAFIA / MOVIELAND AWARDS 2014!

What a great year for going to the movies. Here are the MOVIELAND / FILMMAFIA AWARDS 2014. Below, you’ll find our Top Ten for the year. Also, listen to the ceremony on the Movieland Podcast here:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/movieland-awards-2014/id668507582?i=328380848&mt=2

Best Film:

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Best Direction:

Ruben Östlund for Force Majeure

Best Feature Documentary:

20,000 Days On Earth by Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth

Best Australian Film:

(only given when Best Film is not Australian)

Felony

Director Matthew Saville

Best Lead Performance by a Man:

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Director Steven Knight

Best Lead Performance by a Woman:

Luminita Gheorghiu, Child’s PoseLuminita-Gheorghiu

Director Calin Peter Netzer

Best Supporting Performance by a Man:

JK Simmons, Whiplash

Director Damien Chazelle

Best Supporting Performance by a Woman:

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Director Richard Linklater

Best Original Screenplay:

Nightcrawler by Dan GilroyUnknown

Director Dan Gilroy

Best Adapted Screenplay:

A Most Wanted Man by Andrew Bovell

Director Anton Corbijn

Best Edit:

Tom Cross for Whiplash

Director Damien Chazelle

Best Cinematography:

Fredrik Wenzel for Force Majeure

Director Ruben Östlund

Best Production Design:

Adam Stockhausen for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director Wes Anderson

Best Original Score:

Daniel Landin for Under The Skin

Director Jonathan Glazer

Worst Film:

Tammy

Director Ben Falcone

Top Ten

10) Whiplash – Damien Chazelle, with excellent performances from JK Simmons and Miles Teller.

9) We Are The Best! – Lukas Moodysson

8) Boyhood – Richard Linklater, with an intriguing performance by Ellar Coltrane, who ages from 5 to 17 in the film, and excellent support from Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke.

7) Two Days, One Night – the Dardenne Brothers, with a superb lead performance by Marion Cotillard.

6) Under The Skin – Jonathan Glazer

5) The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, with Ralph Fiennes at his comedic zenith.

4) A Most Wanted Man – Anton Corbijn, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of the roles he left behind.

3) Locke – Steven Knight, with Tom Hardy in an astonishing performance.

2) Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy, with an excellent Jake Gyllenhaal.

1) Force Majeure – Ruben Östlund. Film of the Year.

2014 IN REVIEW

2014-Happy-New-Year-Number-Gold-Wallpaper-HD-1024x8342014 has come to an end, and while there are undoubtedly some seriously good movies still to be released before the Oscars, it’s time to look back on what we’ve seen. There have been some terrific releases this year that have already cleaned up some major awards, some that haven’t but are still worth investigating, and, of course, some serious disappointments.

Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure, which won Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year, is definitely my favourite film thus far, which is far from saying it’s the film that made me feel the best. This devastating look at how fragile family life can be is truly (and opposed to superficially) referential of Kubrick and Haneke – indeed,  Östlund stated to me in an interview that Haneke was a major influence on him at film school. It’s a major work from a filmmaker on the cusp of major status. Watch him start to win the big ones over the next decade.

Working in another vein but also examining marriage with deadly and brutal invasion, David Fincher’s Gone Girl took a nearly-good novel and made a nearly-great film out of it. It’s not as incisive as Force Majeure, but it’s even more cynical about that most singular institution we pretend to hold dear. Marriage in Gone Girl is a pinàta, and by the time the film is over, it’s been beaten to death. Fincher’s film, unlike FORCE MAJEURE, is not a new Classic – but it’s good, and made inroads as an important film this year.

Moving into the realm of happiness, Lukas Moodysson’s We Are The Best was the happiest film of the year, telling the story of how a band comes together, when that band is punk, composed of twelve year-olds, and living in Stockholm in 1982. For me, this film wins the “Best Climax” award – the ending is truly, madly, deeply joyous, and a monumental ode to the act of creation.

On the creepy side, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is just terrific – a totally awesome entertainment, all the more so if you like your satire as bitter and black as a Turkish espresso. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is a truly despicable creation, a sociopath to rival De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin in Scorsese’s King of Comedy. Come Awards Season all the talk will be about Gyllenhaal, but Rene Russo – Gilroy’s wife – gives an outstanding support performance.

The Dardenne Brothers, who lost out at Cannes but won the Sydney Film Festival Prize, offered their most commercially approachable film ever with Two Days, One Night, which, for me, was the most suspenseful film of the year (thus far). What a plot! A woman wakes up and is told that unless she can persuade the majority of her sixteen colleagues to forego their annual bonuses, she’ll be fired. She has the weekend to persuade them to deliberately forego a significant parcel of money to keep her on. If the final scene doesn’t have you white-knuckling your armrest, you simply must be dead.

Kill The Messenger was a Lumet-influenced, coolly proficient journalism thriller, with a calmly excellent performance from Jeremy Renner, who, let’s face it, has not capitalised properly on his Hurt Locker Oscar nomination until now (playing the guy who shoots arrows really well in the Marvelverse is not a Meryl Streep Choice). David Ayer’s Fury is an excellent and tense tank movie and again shows how brilliant Brad Pitt is at filling a large screen. Whiplash is an intense and highly original melodrama that will propel journeyman (and brilliant) actor JK Simmons into the Awards Club, and Locke is simply stunning from start to finish, a film that plays its cards as a gimmick (the whole thing is shot in a car!) but wins its hand by being ludicrously suspenseful and oddly moving. Tom Hardy gives the performance of the year, unless you can give that honour to Ellar Coltrane, who let Richard Linklater shoot him for twelve years for Boyhood and became awesome as it happened. Well, not really. His performance is natural and charming but hardly technically precise. Hardy’s, in Locke, is that in spades. It’s amazing.

You can’t say that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was at his absolute best in A Most Wanted Man, mainly because his character, and thus his performance, is so low-key (he’s playing a spy in a La Carré movie!), but the film itself, from Anton Corbijn, is amazing, a beautiful, melancholy spy thriller for the post-9/11 scene in an accessible key. It’s up there with Force Majeure for me for film of the year thus far. For an esoteric ride, Jonathan Glazer’s third feature Under The Skin, with Scarlett Johansson as a creepy alien, was gleefully strange and quite brilliant. Matthew Saville’s Felony had one of the sharpest screenplays of the year, by Joel Edgerton, who also gave an excellent performance in the film, as did Tom Wilkinson and Jai Courtney, who finally had a role with nuance and ambiguity.

Also on the Australian front, Tony Mahony and Angus Sampson’s The Mule, written by Sampson and co-star Leigh Whannell, is strangely touching and tender, especially given that it’s essentially about two dudes waiting for another dude to poo. The 1983 production design is spot-on – Paddy Reardon deserves many awards – avoiding cliché and evoking emotion. Amazing details fill every frame, from the food to the wallpaper, the cars and the beer cans – let alone the clothes and hairstyles. It’s evocative enough to make the film entertaining on design merit alone, but there are great performances too, especially the double act of Ewen Leslie and Hugo Weaving as the cops assigned to get the evidence out of Sampson… literally.

The documentary about the skateboarding Pappas brothers, All This Mayhem, proved the truism that you don’t need to be interested in the ostensible subject matter to love the film. I couldn’t give a toss about skateboarding and I was enthralled. I am completely into theatre producers, and Gracie Otto’s The Last Impresario, about Michael White, was catnip to me, but it’s a terrific film by any measure, fast and fun. Not an Australian film but featuring an Australian subject, the Nick Cave filmic essay 20,000 Days On Earth probably proves that you do need to like the subject to like the film, but if you are a Cave fan (I am), it’s gold. And while we’re celebrating Aussies in foreign films, Rose Byrne stole every scene of Bad Neighbours she was in, cementing her place in the “new Hollywood comedy” firmament in the process.

Indeed, some Aussie films did far better overseas than here, the best example being Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, which was essentially hailed as a modern horror classic in the UK while being pretty neglected here. Of course, there was a lot of talk of all Australian films being neglected at the box office this year, and they almost universally were. Some, such as My Mistress and Canopy, really probably had no real audience to begin with, while others, such as Predestination and The Rover, may have been expected (hoped?) to have performed far better than they did. The problem is an archaic 120 day window that remains in stuffy place for films between their theatrical and home release dates; hopefully this will get rectified in 2015. It must.

Moving back off our shores, in terms of the top-shelf stuff from far-flung lands, Child’s Pose, from Romanian Calin Peter Netzer, is, essentially, a thriller, but, like the recent films of Asghar Farhadi  – A Separation and The Past – it offers a depth of meaningful, emotional engagement far beyond that genre’s typical aspirations, and, indeed, far beyond those of your average “straight drama”. Its thrills are thrilling, but its drama is intense, moving, and extremely rewarding.

On the disappointing side, What We Do In The Shadows, from the usually reliable Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, was terrible, a juvenile sketch stretched to feature length and, horrendously, never funny. Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer could have been so good but was, instead, crippled by a third act that was talky and dull. Men, Women and Children, from normally brilliant Jason Reitman, was defiantly not brilliant, instead being preachy and dull. Calvary lacked conviction, peppered with stereotypical, cliché characters and a “have your cake and eat it too” attitude to its subject matter (systemic child abuse in the Catholic church). And Noah was ill-conceived, a strange attempt at art-film fantasia  shackled by the very biblical conventions it was trying so desperately to subvert.

There were many other good films: Paddington, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nymphomaniac Part II, The Invisible Woman – and many, many bad ones (I’m looking at you, Tammy). Overall, though, I have to say: it’s been a great year thus far for movies.

Roll on Oscar Season! I will report. And tomorrow: The Film Mafia / Movieland Awards 2014!