Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Review: The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey

No masterpiece, but there is much to enjoy in this return to Middle Earth

It is the case that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is to my generation what the original Star Wars trilogy was to the children of the 70s and 80s. Every Christmas for three years, those films were amazing and formative experiences, showing our young eyes what cinema was capable of. They have swiftly become almost untouchable. I have never fully trusted anyone who has said that they don’t really get The Lord of the Rings. They seem like tricksy Hobbitses.

The LOTR/Star Wars analogy is most apt, because both generations craved more and both generations have had their moment of truth. With the Star Wars generation, it was a case of be careful what you wish for, and the fear amongst Tolkien fans, who learnt from this travesty, is palpable. After all, a slim volume has been transformed into not one, not two, but three films, and we are terrified that we are not about to be transported back to Middle Earth but rather to an accountant’s spreadsheet.

Of course, in such situations, the fanboy is his own worst enemy. He lets his expectations rocket high into the stratosphere, preventing himself from having the relaxed open-mind which let him fall in love with the material in the first place. Given that, the usual reaction to such big releases is torn between cries of “It’s a masterpiece!” and “It’s an abomination!”

In the case of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, it is neither of the two. It is a fine addition to the cinematic Tolkien saga, but it has its problems. These problems are not insuperable, and when the initial furore has died down, it will be evident that Jackson should have our faith that he can really hit top gear with instalments two and three.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Reel 6 and The Huffington Post

I am very excited to announce that I am now blogging for The Huffington Post UK. The first article, on The Amazing Spider-Man, The Bourne Legacy and others, "Giving it the Reboot" is up and available to read here.

The Reel 6 blog will continue to work away here with reviews, looks at trailers and other posts.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises, if not to new heights, then to a thrilling finale

The Dark Knight is risen. He is risen indeed. Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film promised to be an epic conclusion to The Dark Knight saga, and it is truly epic in ambition, scale and action. Though there is no use in claiming that The Dark Knight Rises is perfect, for those who are fanatical about the films it should be an incredibly satisfying end to the trilogy.

We return to Gotham eight years since The Dark Knight. The streets have been cleaned up with the help of the heroic example of the myth of Harvey Dent. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse and Batman is no longer required. All seems well. However, a new villain is on the horizon in the form of the masked man-mountain, Bane. His intentions are unclear. All that is apparent is that he should be feared. As dangers mount, will Batman return?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Profile: Christopher Nolan

Ahead of the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Reel 6 re-evaluates the career of one of the world's most talented filmmakers

There have been few directors as obviously talented as Christopher Nolan. The simple fact is that he has never made a bad film. His least good film is Insomnia, and that is a very watchable, solidly put together thriller: not poor by any means. The man has the consistency of a metronome.

Yet, it is fascinating to look at how this filmmaker has developed. The former English Lit. student at UCL never went to film school, and has described himself as learning by going out and making films. Certainly, this is borne out by how his movies have developed and improved.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Lost in Translation?

A few thoughts on the cons (and pros) of English language remakes

“English. English. English is best. I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.” So goes the logic of the Hollywood executive it seems, as they continue to commission English language remakes of foreign films. It is rightly assumed that executives are pro these remakes because of their seemingly predictable financial success. The idea has already found an audience and is now being translated into English for a wider, western audience.

The figures do not back this up however. The most common rehashes are of oriental horror films such as The Ring, The Grudge and Dark Water. Some of these do achieve huge financial success in their English forms (The Ring), but many do averagely or worse (Dark Water was a big flop).

However, whilst the misguided accountant has clear (if wrong) reasons for wanting to remake the films, the filmmaker’s motives are often more questionable. Why remake a film unless you wanted to do something new with it?

Friday, 1 June 2012

Review: Prometheus

In film, no one builds worlds like Ridley Scott

It has often been said that Ridley Scott is at his best when he is creating worlds. Gladiator and Blade Runner stand as testament to this, but on a smaller scale, though no less impressive, sits Alien, his 1979 Sci-Fi horror.

The success of that film is down largely to its incredible design. Not only do we have the worn-down, yet futuristic, confined spaceship, but in the film’s first act we have this intriguing planet, complete with mysterious, wrecked starship and an infestation of the eponymous beasties. The world is complete, draws you in and makes a not too comfortable place to have your fears played out.

That legacy of original design was trampled upon in James Cameron’s bland, action follow-up, Aliens, and the less said about Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection the better, but now, 33 years after the original, we get a new edition from the Alien universe: Prometheus.

Scott has hesitated to call this a prequel. Whilst it technically is, one can see just cause for his reticence. This film could readily stand on its own, so if you haven’t seen the original film, this is open to you. If you have seen the original, then let me assure you: it will be satisfying.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Dark Shadows: Have Burton and Depp lost the element of surprise?

Some say "We've seen it all before", but could it be more a case of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are copping some flack at the moment for their recent work, and in particular their new film Dark Shadows. The magic has gone, say some. The ideas are falling flat, say others. However, the number one criticism they’re facing is that we’ve seen it all before.

Some have tired of the comic-gothic Burton sensibility, the extravagant Depp performances and bemoan a lack of invention, a characteristic which was abundant in their earlier work. That last point carries some weight. Despite its entertaining premise, there is precious little genuine originality on show here, particularly in an age when vampire films are ubiquitous and often parodied. However, the general criticism that Burton and Depp are covering well-trodden ground can be looked at another way: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Review: Marley

Kevin Macdonald's detailed documentary provides an insight into the enigmatic reggae icon

Bob Marley’s music is some of the most ubiquitous and universally popular ever written. A mainstay of teenage iTunes collections, Marley’s reggae seems destined to remain widely listened to and adored. However, it is certainly the case that Marley the man is not so well known. The image emblazoned on t-shirts and posters worldwide, is the face of an enigmatic man.

Kevin Macdonald’s epic documentary, Marley, attempts to tell the story of this man, drawing on the wealth of material which the Marley estate has in its possession, new interviews with many of Marley’s relations, friends and closest associates, and, of course the music.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Review: The Cabin in the Woods

A spoiler-tastic look at one of the most talked about films of the year

One of the most talked about films of the year so far, The Cabin in the Woods is supposedly the movie which is impossible not to spoil. Though I happen to disagree with that assessment, I fear the wrath of those who would tell me that I ruined it for them. Certainly, a lot of the fun is working out what exactly is going on, so I shall merely say that I think the film is an absolute hoot, give you the slimmest of plot summaries, and ask that, when you’ve seen it, you come back here to read further.

So, here’s the slim plot summary: a bunch of college kids head off for a weekend in a cabin. In the woods. Before they get there, there is a sinister, stereotypical man who seems to be a harbinger of doom. They carry on regardless and head to the cabin. In the woods. Sounds familiar, but will all go as you expect? Well, go, see and come back.

Assuming that everyone who is reading from this point onwards has seen the film, this article may well turn into an all-out spoiler fest.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Trailerwatch: New Amazing Spider-Man Trailer

There’s a new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, the Spider-Man reboot which stars Andrew Garfield, due to be released on 3rd July in the US, and the 4th July in the UK.

In it, we see Garfield’s Peter Parker as a moodier, more contemplative prospect than Tobey Maguire’s version. There’s a little more of the mystery over Parker’s parents. It also contains plenty of Rhys Ifans, which is marvellous.

Oh, and we see more of the Lizard, more of the all-swinging Spidey, a good gag, and what looks like the most astonishing set-piece prospect of the summer.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Trailerwatch: New Dark Knight Rises Trailer

Almost as if in response to the release of Avengers Assemble, a new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises has been released.

Whilst the Reel 6 verdict was that Avengers Assemble was a blockbuster masterpiece, it has to be noted that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight remains the high watermark of recent superhero movies.

Expectations for the conclusion of the trilogy are high, and the first trailer was predictably impressive visually, but it seemed a little cluttered. Was it perhaps going to be a slightly overblown finale which might crumple under its own weight?

Monday, 30 April 2012

Review: Avengers Assemble

Joss Whedon kicks off blockbuster season with an awesome salvo of a movie

It is all about superheroes this summer. Well, more so than usual. We have the Spider-Man reboot coming up, and the climax to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy on the way, but now, at the start of blockbuster season, the ante has been almost pre-emptively raised very high by the release of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Your Avengers Assemble Crash Course

The long-awaited release of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble has come around, and it is already setting the box office alight, and getting fantastic reviews as well. For those who are none the wiser, here is your quick guide to the Avengers

Warning: this contains backstory (i.e. what happens in the other films)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The New Dilemma of 12A

After ten years of the 12A certificate, it is clear that it has solved one problem but created another

There has been no more regular discussion in British film over the last decade than the one over the 12A certificate. Created in 2002 after a furore over the rating for Spider-Man, the 12A has been described by the British Board of Film Classification as a recognition that parents know their children best, but it has courted a fair amount of controversy.

Friday, 6 April 2012

To Cut or Not to Cut?

So far this year, there have been two major hits at the UK Box Office. The Woman in Black and The Hunger Games have been huge commercial successes, cashing in on the wide audience allowed by the 12A certificate, which has now been with us for 10 years.

However, both films were originally rated at 15, and the distributors accepted minor cuts to the films in order to get the 15 certificate. These instances have highlighted a few issues surrounding our classifications system, the artistic integrity of filmmakers and alleged “censorship”.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Secret of Success

The relative fortunes of John Carter and The Hunger Games mark a blow for cynical Hollywood campaigns and a triumph for story-telling

Two sci-fi epics. Two opposing box office trajectories. The comparative fortunes of The Hunger Games and John Carter have been notable.

The former has just smashed records at the US box office, taking $155mn on its opening weekend, the biggest ever opening for a film which was not a sequel. The latter is going to be a mega-flop, having returned the sort of figures which make Cleopatra look like a commercial success. It will lose Disney around $200mn.

The funny thing is that, as commercial prospects, the two are not dissimilar. True, The Hunger Games has a dedicated teen fan base, but the books, written by Suzanne Collins, have 2.9 million copies in print worldwide. This is no Twilight or Harry Potter, despite its phenomenal success on e-book formats.

Teen fanaticism aside, both are sci-fi adaptations of popular novels and both are aimed at family/teenager audiences. Yet one has been a horrific disaster, and the other has led to the popping of champagne corks in certain Hollywood offices.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Oscars Analysis: How has The Artist Triumphed so Utterly?

A few months ago, The Artist's success was unimaginable. How has it come to pass?

It has become easy over the last few months, as The Artist has been celebrated by every single awards ceremony in existence, to forget quite how extraordinary its success is. To remind us of that fact, let’s put it in plain terms. A black and white,almost completely silent film has just won the Oscar for Best Picture. Had someone predicted this 12 months ago, they would have been laughed out of Tinseltown.

The Artist Takes the Oscars

Silent Movie Wins Five Awards; Hugo also wins five

As widely expected, it was The Artist’s night at The 84th Annual Academy Awards, as it won five awards, including Best Picture, Director, and Actor for Jean Dujardin. However, the Academy also showed its affection for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, which also won five awards in technical categories. Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer won the other acting awards.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Oscar Predictions

Here's a full list of my Oscar predictions, excluding the short film categories, and it looks like it's going to be a very good night for The Artist

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Best Actress: Viola Davis – The Help
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer – The Help
Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Cinematography: The Artist
Best Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Art Direction: The Artist
Best Costume Design: The Artist
Best Makeup: The Iron Lady
Best Original Score: The Artist
Best Original Song: The Muppets – “Man or Muppet”
Best Sound Mixing: Hugo
Best Sound Editing: Hugo
Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Documentary Feature: Pina

The Best Picture Nominees Ranked and Reviewed

The Best Picture Nominees Reviewed Ahead of Tonight's Oscars

9. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Truly one of the worst Best Picture nominees ever, Stephen Daldry’s cold and irritating post-9/11 dirge is boring, manipulative and features the most annoying child character for quite some time. To get on this year’s list, 5% of Academy voters had to put the film as their first choice. How they could do that for this tripe and not for films such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or We Need to Talk About Kevin is just beyond the comprehension of the sane and rational.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Potential Oscar Shocks

The Oscars seem predictable this year, but are there some surprises on the horizon?

The awards season finally comes to an end this weekend with the 84th Academy Awards, the Oscars, taking place on Sunday evening in Hollywood.  What originally held some promise to be one of the most keenly contested races for quite some time, has, like so many races before, become a procession in favour of one film.

There is no real doubt that The Artist will be dominating the world’s press for the last time on Monday morning, but Oscar has shocked us before and there is the slim possibility that it may do so this year. So, in the most probably vain hope of surprise, let’s go looking for some potential Oscar shocks.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The Most Undeserving Best Picture Nominee for a Very Long Time

Well, I didn’t hate it. Not the most encouraging start to a review and I reckon that it’s probably the high point, because Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is one of the most baffling and disappointing Best Picture nominees ever. Often irritating and constantly unmoving, this is a film which completely fails to do justice to the dreadful event of 9/11 which it invokes.

The story is simple enough. A boy, who may have Asperger’s, loses his father in 9/11 and a year later he finds a key amongst his father’s possessions in an envelope simply marked “Black”. Determined that this was left by his dad deliberately, the boy, Oskar (Thomas Horn), goes about New York seeking the lock that the key fits.

Friday, 17 February 2012

If you missed The Muppets last week, catch it now

It's time to start the music. It's time to light the lights. It's time to meet The Muppets...

With the days still dark, and a cold and wet weekend on the way, it seems like we could all afford to cheer ourselves up a bit. I can recommend no better tonic than The Muppets which is an absolutely ideal combination of silly, absurd and musical fun for all the family.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

To Adapt or Not To Adapt?

There have been great film versions of plays, and disappointing adaptations too. What is required to make a good transition from stage to screen?

After seeing Carnage, I emerged having been entertained but with one nagging criticism on my mind: it was stagey. Yasmina Reza’s play “The God of Carnage” arrived on the big screen as a funny, well-acted, good piece of entertainment, but one that just isn’t very cinematic.

There have been some great films based on plays, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Casablanca and various screen adaptations of Shakespeare. There have also been some adaptations which just don’t feel at home on the big screen. Doubt and The History Boys were two prime examples of films which still felt constrained by the limitations of a Proscenium Arch.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Hands up if you're Bored by the Awards Season

The Oscars have their thunder stolen every year, but maybe that's about to change

This year has featured one of the more interesting awards seasons of recent times. It has still become very boring before the real event. We all know that The Artist is going to win big at the Oscars in a fortnight’s time, and, after the endless awards ceremonies, it is becoming increasingly hard to care.

The Artist Triumphs at the BAFTAs

Seven awards for The Artist confirms that it is unstoppable in its march towards Oscar success

The Artist swept all before it at Sunday night’s BAFTAs, winning seven awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won for Best British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay, tying with Hugo, The Iron Lady and Senna on two awards each.

The BAFTAs had threatened to buck the trend of the French silent-movie winning all of the major awards it was up for, with the adaptation of Le Carré’s spy thriller looking like a strong contender as the flag-bearer for British film this year. However, BAFTA demonstrated its admiration of The Artist by awarding it the most awards of the night by far, including a surprise win for Jean Dujardin in the Best Actor category, an award which Tinker Tailor’s Gary Oldman had been expected to win.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best Film and Full List of Predictions

In a battle of two much-admired films, the sheer amount of love for The Artist will carry the day

The Oscars have a list of nine films for Best Picture. BAFTA has five films in its list for Best Film. BAFTA’s list is better, for BAFTA includes The Artist and The Descendants, two of the finest films you’d wish to see, the worthy The Help, which was surprisingly nominated ahead of Hugo, and it includes Drive, one of the most brilliantly well-executed films of the year, and, of course, it is the only major awards body to have given a nomination to the best film of 2011, namely Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

So, who will win?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best Director

The under-appreciated get a chance, but can they stop The Artist and Michel Hazanavicius?

The nominees for Best Director are a fine selection indeed. BAFTA has recognised the cinephile work of both Michel Hazanavicius in The Artist and Martin Scorsese for Hugo, as had everyone else, but they have also picked three of the very best and under-appreciated directors of last year. We have the Best Director from Cannes, Nicolas Winding-Refn for Drive, the meticulous Swede Tomas Alfredson for the masterful Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Anyone of these would be very worthy winners, and the competition is very close to call. BAFTA does not pick its Best Director winners lightly. They often go for exceptional filmmakers whose work is not getting rewarded widely. In recent years, Paul Greengrass won for United 93, Peter Weir won for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Mike Leigh won for Vera Drake.

Friday, 10 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best Actress

There are contenders other than Dame Meryl

A few months ago, the Best Actress category was looking pretty simple. No matter which awards body it was, they were going to vote for Meryl Streep’s incredible, engrossing and moving portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. However, queries have been raised since then about how inevitable Streep’s victory is.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best Supporting Actor

How refreshing it is to see five completely worthy nominees. What a shame it is that only one can win.

It is hard to have any complaint about the Best Supporting Actor category this year. I have quibbles, such as the fact that not one member of the brilliant supporting cast in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy managed to make it onto the list (presumably they all cancelled out each other’s votes), and that Christopher Plummer, great though he is, has been nominated more for the outlandishness of his role (an elderly father who belatedly comes out) than for the quality of his performance (I personally thought he was better in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

However, you can stand back and look at these five nominees and say not only that they’re all worthy of their place there, but also that you wouldn’t mind any of them winning.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best British Film

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy may be the only nominee to also be up for Best Film, but that's no guarantee for success in the Outstanding British Film Category

The Best British Film category at the BAFTAs should be an open and shut case, shouldn’t it? Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is nominated in that category, but is the only nominee to also be up for Best Film, so it must win, right?


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best Supporting Actress

The Supporting Actress category is a story of bizarre omissions and an inspired inclusion

Having praised BAFTA yesterday for its Best Actor picks, I must express a certain degree of bemusement over its selections for Supporting Actress. It has largely followed the line of other awards ceremonies, nominating Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain for their performances in The Help, and Melissa McCarthy for her comedic turn in Bridesmaids. However, it has deviated from others by nominating Carey Mulligan in Drive, and Judi Dench in My Week with Marilyn.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best Actor

In the first part of Reel 6's week-long preview of the BAFTAs, it's Oldman vs. Fassbender for Best Actor

The BAFTAs are the awards body which gets the nominations right. On the whole, that is. Though they occasionally over reward the British contingent when the awards are handed out, they do at least recognise more of the very best in film than Oscar actually does. No category represents this better this year than Best Actor.

BAFTA is in line with everyone else in appreciating the excellence of George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist), who appear to be the two battling it out for the Oscar. They have also been charmed by Brad Pitt (Moneyball), but it is two Brits (well, a Brit and an Irishman) who seem to be in pole position for the BAFTA.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

War Horse is simply a mixed bag

A film which flits between brilliance and over-indulgence has generated a false division amongst critics

War Horse has been incredibly divisive. Is it a moving, genuinely affecting masterpiece? Or is it a schmaltzy, manipulative, over-the-top deluge of sentimentality (no pun intended)?

Well, as is often the case with such divisive movies, it is a bit of both. It is Spielberg with phasers set to blub and firing on all cylinders and the end result is that some of the film is thrilling, moving and often devastating filmmaking, whilst other bits of it just go far too far.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mortensen and Fassbender together is an irresistible prospect

An acting match-up to compare with De Niro and Pacino

The release of A Dangerous Method is being talked about for many reasons. Spanking. Keira Knightley. Keira Knightley being spanked. It’s all been very high-brow, but for the real film fans amongst us there is a great reason to get excited. The film features one of those acting head-to-heads which are unmissable. Like De Niro and Pacino in Heat was for an entire generation of film buffs, so Mortensen and Fassbender in A Dangerous Method is for another.

The Death of Film

Is there a place for film in a digital world?

The signs are unavoidable: film is dying. The rise of digital has been unstoppable for a long time, but now it is claiming casualties.

Eastman Kodak, the name internationally synonymous with film, filed for bankruptcy a few weeks ago and now it is attempting to have itsname struck off the theatre where the Oscars are held. There has been no bigger sign of the death of film to date.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Can anything stop The Artist?

Michel Hazanvicius continues The Artist's winning streak at DGAs

The Artist’s seemingly inexorable march toward numerous Oscar gongs continued last night when Michel Hazanavicius was named as “Director of the Year” by the Director’s Guild of America, a reliable indicator of Oscar success. This goes with its victory at the Producer’s Guild Awards last week, all of which seem to indicate that the French, black-and-white silent film is going to do extremely well when the Academy hands out its awards in just under a month.

Friday, 27 January 2012

What is The Iron Lady?

A film which attempted to be so much, has wound up being confused and even regressive

The most provocative and talked about film of the month has undoubtedly been The Iron Lady. Was it too lacking in political content? Was it distasteful in its depiction of Margaret Thatcher in dementia? Was it hagiographic or an offensive representation of the longest serving post-war Prime Minister? My major question when I came out at the end, however, was “What is it?”

Review: The Descendants

Alexander Payne's latest is a funny and moving masterpiece

Director: Alexander Payne
Screenwriter: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Cast: George Clooney (Matt King), Shailene Woodley (Alex King), Amara Miller (Scottie King), Nick Krause (Sid), Beau Bridges (Cousin Hugh) and Robert Forster (Scott Thorson)
Plot: A father's life is thrown into turmoil when his wife is plunged into a coma and he has to take care of his children, right at the point that he has to make a major financial decision. On top of this, he discovers that his wife has been having an affair, and resolves to go and find the man she was sleeping with to tell him about her condition.
Running Time: 114m 54s

Alexander Payne is the master of the mid-life crisis. Whether it was Matthew Broderick’s disillusioned high school teacher in Election, or Jack Nicholson’s bewildered widower in About Schmidt, or Paul Giamatti’s lonely wine-snob in Sideways, Payne focuses on middle-aged men who still haven’t worked out love, life and, quite often, death.

In The Descendants, he is on familiar territory once again. George Clooney plays Matt King, a real estate lawyer, whose wife has been plunged into a coma after a boating accident, right at the point that he, the sole remaining trustee of thousands of acres of virgin Hawaiian land, has to decide who he’s going to sell it to before the trust dissolves. Stale love and wrangling about property: it’s what I’m expecting from my fifties.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Comment: Oscar Nominations

Oscar gets all nostalgic and plucky Brits do well in a surprising list of nominations

I really must apologise to the neighbours, because when Gary Oldman’s name was read out as an Oscar nominee for Best Actor I gave an almighty cry of “Yes!”. After weeks of being snubbed by awards bodies in the States, though the BAFTAs were far more appreciative of one of the finest films of last year, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy finally got some recognition. Okay: three nominations is not enough in my estimation, but it is more than I was hoping for.

Hugo and The Artist Lead the Charge at the Oscars

There's also good news for Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman

For once, there were surprises and shocks when the Oscar nominations were announced at lunchtime on Tuesday. There were many hoots and gasps, but there were also many nominations which came as expected, with The Artist doing well, and Meryl Streep collecting her 17 Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

The Artist, of course, is the big front-runner of the awards season, and it has collected a bevy of nominations. It has received 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Jean Dujardin, Best Supporting Actress for Berenice Bejo and Original Screenplay. This is triumphant for such an unconventional film, demonstrating a great deal of affection for Michel Hazanavicius’ black and white silent film. It remains the big favourite for Best Picture.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Review: Coriolanus

Fiennes' solid Shakespearean directorial debut

Director: Ralph Fiennes
Screenwriter: John Logan, based on the play by William Shakespeare
Cast: Ralph Fiennes (Caius Martius Coriolanus), Vanessa Redgrave (Volumnia), Gerard Butler (Tullus Aufidius), Brian Cox (Menenius) and Jessica Chastain (Virgilia)
Plot: Having triumphed in war against Tullus Aufidius, Caius Martius is entitled Coriolanus and nominated to become Consul of Rome, a city which is starving. His dislike for the people and the cunning of other politicians drives him into exile, where he unites with Aufidius.
Running Time: 122m 53s

You have to applaud Ralph Fiennes’ apparent fearlessness in taking on his first outing as a film director. Not only has he taken on the difficult job of directing himself in the title role, but he has chosen one of Shakespeare’s most notoriously troublesome plays.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Review: The Artist

The silent film which makes the most almighty noise

Director & Screenwriter: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin (George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller), John Goodman (Al Zimmer), James Cromwell (Clifton), Uggie (The Dog)
Plot: George Valentin is the biggest silent movie star in 1927, but the advent of sound sees his downfall and the rise of Peppy Miller.
Running Time: 100m 23s

Without a doubt, Michel Hazanavicius’ black and white, silent film has to be one of the most unlikely awards season frontrunners ever. This is a film whose basic content is so anathema to the conventions and expectations of the mainstream that one cinema in Liverpool has seen fit to refund customers who were bemused to discover that the film has no dialogue (almost), is in black-and-white (which we all know is obsolete and of absolutely no worth) and only uses a portion of the screen made available to it (the film was shot in the classic Academy ratio to cement its nostalgic feel).

Certainly, its wider success has shown that large audiences are attracted to its deliberately anachronistic charms. This does not show a reawakening of a forgotten love for silent film. It shows that there can be great results, both critical and commercial, when someone has the courage, as Hazanavicius did, to use old techniques, which seemingly have long since lost their commercial appeal, to tell a story in the best way possible.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Cameron's Ill-conceived Vision for the British Film Industry

David Cameron’s comments about the UK film industry have attracted a good deal of controversy. His view is that the film industry’s primary concern should be investing in films which are likely to be “mainstream and commercially promising”.

This is part of a wider range  of government statements on the subject of British film, most of which will be formally set out in Lord Smith’s review next week. The emphasis is largely on the notion of making British film more lucrative than it is now, by appealing to broader international markets (i.e. America) and trying to maximise profits by investment in the aforementioned “commercially promising” projects.

The rhetoric has been brief and undetailed so far, but the tone is troubling. It comes across as ill-informed nonsense. Whilst I have sympathy with the idea that so-called mainstream projects should get a higher proportion of public funding than they presently do, there are many issues with these ideas.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Steven Moffat isn't sexist

Note: This article contains spoilers

The welcome return of the hit-series Sherlock on New Year’s Day was a marvellous piece of television drama. Though the series still lives in the shadow of the masterpiece which was the first episode of series one, A Study in Pink, the updating of the Conan Doyle novels remain hilarious, thrilling, wonderfully acted and hugely enjoyable.

However, as is often the way with adored franchises, it has become controversial. The charge was levelled in The Guardian that Steven Moffat (the co-creator of the show who also runs Doctor Who) depicts women in a regressive manner in both of his shows. The trigger for this was the appearance of Irene Adler, portrayed in the show as a dominatrix, who is fiercely intelligent, but susceptible to her emotions, ultimately fatally for her plans.