Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

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.