Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another Year - Review

Finally got to see this.

It's a pity I was so tired, because it is heavy on dialogue, low on plot and, although it's slow and quiet, you really don't want to miss a moment.

Mike Leigh's writing is as excellent as ever - observing complex truths about choices, consequences and happiness, but always letting the observations serve the characters, not the other way around.

Every character is complexly written and every single member of the cast performs miraculously - this group of friends feels so real and the quietly shifting emotions, tensions, loyalties and perspectives in their conversations are beautifully observed.

Jim Broadbent & Ruth Sheen anchor the film with spot on performances as Tom & Gerri, the stable, happy couple to whom a series of desperate, messy friends flock. Oliver Maltman brings wit and goofish charm as their son and Karina Fernandez is a mad blast as his perfectly matched girlfriend.

But it is Lesley Manville (Cannes & National Board of Review Best Actress winner) & Imelda Staunton that steal the film as two very different, bitter and chronically unhappy women that Gerri tries to get through to but possibly can't. The finale centers around Manville's Mary, and her performance is so fearless and glamourless, that it is at times difficult to watch - a manically energetic, skittish woman who never stops talking, cannot get over the hurts love and life have dealt her, will fall for (almost) any man who gives her attention, thinks she is successfully masking her unhappiness, cannot buy a decent second-hand car or take care of her garden and deeply wants to be someone her friends can confide in. She is as hilarious as she is heartbreaking, and at times downright poisonous and pathetic. It's a brave and bruising performance.

The film quietly poses questions about why some people are happy while others never seem be; why some people simply seem to make better choices; how to make someone see their own folly; whether it's selfish to enjoy the happiness of your own successful life while others can't seem to get theirs together & what can actually be done to help them? It poses no answers, but provides much richly detailed food for thought.

A tour-de-force of great ensemble acting & writing (it is ensemble writing, as Mike Leigh develops his scripts together with his cast).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

God of Love (Live Action Short Film) Trailer

Oscar Winner for Best Live Action Short - God of Love:


Short clip after the cut:

The Lost Thing (Animated Short) Trailer

Best Animated Short Film winner at this year's Oscars, here is the Trailer for, & a clip from, The Lost Thing.

Haven't found the full short film online yet.


Short clip after the cut:

A Better Life Trailer - the year's first Oscar contender?

Borrowing Gustavo Santaolalla's stirring Motorcycle Diaries score, Summit Entertainment announces what they intend to push as the year's first Oscar contender, following their Hurt Locker success.

A change of pace for director Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass, New Moon), it looks promising enough, but Oscar? We shall see.

Red Riding Hood - Review

Friends made me watch this on Human Rights Day because I made them watch Tron: Legacy (how is that fair?).

It is a pile of poo. I can only assume that once-promising director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) enjoyed making some money with Twilight, and was eager to repeat her success. She should be eager to get back to her legitimate career.

Red Riding Hood borrows heavily from Twilight to appeal to the pre-teen-but-think-they're-teen girl audience:

  • Soulful, life-changing voiceovers - check
  • Involuntary attraction to a sensitive bad boy - check
  • Forests - check
  • Lots of heavy breathing - check
  • Pretty girl with family issues torn between two pretty boys - check
  • Werewolf - check
  • Billy Burke as 'dad' - check
  • Terrible romantic dialogue ('I know you feel it too - like you're burning inside...' '...I want to eat you up...') - check

I guess its entertaining enough, and it holds some surprises, but mostly its a good unintentional laugh (and I wasn't the only one in the cinema chuckling). Gary Oldman does his worst work in a while, and the great Julie Christie embarrasses herself for what must be a much-needed paycheck.

It's pretty much a stinker.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

2 Oscars & 8 marriages later, Elizabeth Taylor has passed away at the age of 79.

Oscar nominated for Raintree Country (1957), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Butterfield 8 (1960) (win) & Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) (win), and a screen icon since she was 11

Liz Taylor - National Velvet (age 13):

Liz Taylor - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (age 26):

Liz Taylor - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Age 34):

More after the cut:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Johnny Depp is back in the new Pirates & the new Hunter S Thompson adaptation

Johnny Depp sure has been quite prolific the last few years. Last year his performances in Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist were decent but disappointing, and started feeling like perhaps he should be a bit more picky.

This year, he sinks his teeth into another Hunter S Thompson adaptation (last time was Terry Gilliam's take on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this time it's Bruce Robinson's The Rum Diary). The plot (according to hints at quite a role for Depp:

"The Rum Diary follows Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), a divorced alcoholic and struggling novelist who decides to kick around in San Juan until his ship comes in, working as a journalist for a newspaper that’s on its last legs, drinking gallons of rum and experimenting with LSD. With his new friend Bob Sala by his side, Kemp becomes entangled in a corrupt hotel development scheme with a slick PR consultant named Sanderson."

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - more after the cut:

Cave of Forgotten Dreams Trailer

Somehow Werner Hertzog / the french can get away with saying nonsense like 'Quiet please, we are going to listen to the cave... and perhaps hear our own heartbeats'.

Hertzog's Grizzly Man was quite a documentary, and he always has a refreshingly left field view of things. He always attracts ecstatic reviews, but judge for yourself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Che Guevera for Human Rights Day

For Human Rights Day, I wanted to tried to find a scene from one of  my favourite movies, Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries. I couldn't find the leper colony scene, so I settled for the night-time conversation with communist couple. Amazing movie.

What Natalie did next

While we're on the topic of Natalie Portman, here's what else we'll see her in this year:

Your Highness:



Not quite what you expected? Clearly she is not taking herself too seriously, and power to her. Everyone is entitled to cash in a paycheck or three, and taking on laughs and battle scenes might be a very wise move after throwing herself into the dark and disturbing Black Swan.

Thor, being directed by multiple-Shakespeare-adaptation-veteran Kenneth Branagh, is certainly on my to-see list.

The stars of Black Swan bring you... the same romantic comedy

Natalie Portman & Ashton Kutcher - No Strings Attached:

Mila Kunis & Justin Timberlake - Friends with Benefits:

Hollywood oozing original ideas.
I could pay to see No Strings Attached. Looks sweeter. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sharlto Copley, Matt Damon & Jodi Foster in Neill Blomkamp's Elysium

Neill Blomkamp has put (rumoured) District 10 on hold & roped in Sharlto Copley, Matt Damon & Jodie Foster (impressive) to star in his new sci-fi mystery, Elysium. All we know is that it is set in the distant future, on a foreign planet, with - of course - socio-political undertones. But apparently that's wrong, cause IMDB describes it as follows: "Aliens come to earth to do battle with man kind so they find peace on earth and live like human beings."

So basically we know nothing, except it probably has aliens. And the less we know, the better. Probably. After District 9, anything Blomkamp does next is news. He only has to not screw it up to become huge.

I searched the web for a trailer and found this:

Yeah... I don't think that has anything to do with the Blomkamp film... Thankfully.

THIS, however, apparently does:

Interesting... The initial promotional trailers for District 9 were clever in that they hinted at the film's content while including very little footage from the actual film. This is likely along the same lines, and certainly piques my interest as much as the high profile cast.

The Making of Todd Haynes' Mildred Pierce

With I'm Not There, Far From Heaven & Safe on his CV, Todd Haynes is some kind of legend.

Fascinating 'making of' doc for his upcoming HBO mini-series adaptation of Mildred Pierce.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Source Code Trailer

After giving us Moon & excellent short film Whistle, I'm excited about anything Duncan Jones (aka David Bowie Jr) does next.

This reminds me of an episode of Fringe, which is never a bad thing. And Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga & Jeffrey Wright: that's one classy cast right there.

[Update:] My wife insists this is just like early 90s TV show, Quantum Leap. Check out the awesome promo below & make the comparison:

Win Win Trailer

The latest from Tom McCarthy, who brought us the Indie Awesome The Station Agent & The Visitor. Great cast, as always.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Natalie Portman & Elmo present: The Princess and the Elephant

I think this is pretty embarassing & awesome!

Natalie Portman - Breakthrough # 3

So now Natalie Portman has an Oscar, and people have been calling Black Swan her breakthrough role. In truth, though, Natalie Portman has had at least three breakthrough roles and, although her she has a reputation for being sweet & level-headed, all three roles are pretty dark, intense and risky.

Her first breakthrough was her fairly sensational debut at age 12 in Luc Besson’s best film, Leon. She plays Mathilda, a young orphan who begs a lonely hitman to take her in and teach her his trade so that she can off the drug dealer that killed her beloved little brother. That and she kind of falls in love with the hitman while she’s at it. Fortunately he’s a really, really nice guy (go figure) who’s just interested in protecting her, so it never goes where you really hope it won’t. There tenderness of their bond is the emotional core of the film, and Portman is a live wire. In all Mathilda’s antics, you can see her hurt and alienation. The legend is that she was actually too young for the part, but that Luc Besson couldn’t bare not to cast her. Check out the clip from her casting video below:

The Social Network was edited on Final Cut

I found this great article over at Vanity Fair's 'Little Gold Men' about recent Oscar winners, Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter, editors of The Social Network, on working with David Fincher, editing on digital & getting intimate with Jesse Eisenberg:

Little Gold Men: Let's start with the obvious. What do you think as editors when Fincher comes at you with his infamous "99 takes" approach to filmmaking?
Angus: Well, he may have shot 99 takes, but he doesn’t actually send all 99 takes to us. I think it was usually 60-odd takes and 30 he didn’t like. The great thing with David is you get a lot of material. Having that allows you to do things that make the scene much better.
Kirk: It’s not like he’s shooting one shot, 99 times. He’s also getting all his coverage. He might do that master for a bunch of takes, then he’ll get the over-the-shoulder, then the close-up. He’s going to make sure he’s got a great performance from every angle.

So, you like having that much material?
Angus: It allows us to do our job.
Kirk: That opening scene was very much setting up the film, and he had a target to get to in terms of how long it took to get through all the dialogue. The first God-knows-how-many takes were really about getting it truncated. What’s normal for David is about 6 to 12 takes for a setup. But sometimes it’s as simple as three.
Angus: That said, he does shoot a lot of takes!

Was the screenplay’s structure a challenge? Was it hard helping the audience keep track of when and where the action is taking place?
Kirk: The main heavy lifting is really the writing. The traction of it all makes sense and that’s based on what Aaron wrote. Our task was—does it make sense to be overlapping this, should there be hard cuts?
Angus: Does the dialogue pre-lap? There are a couple of phrases or lines that are lifted from scenes, but in terms of the shape of the movie, it’s very much in the original script.
Kirk: We played it quite straight towards the beginning when you're jumping back and forth in time. As the audience got used to that language, we were able to get more aggressive in overlapping the lines and speeding it up.

David likes being on the technological forefront of filmmaking—shooting digitally, editing in Final Cut. How does that impact the editing process?
Angus: When I switched to Final Cut, it made me rethink how I work. It forced me to re-invent things. I love it because it’s so flexible. It doesn’t force you into a way of thinking about editing.

All the Oscar Winners!

Originally 27 Feb 2011:

Best Picture: The King’s Speech

Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler, The King’s Speech
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Editing: Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter, The Social Network

Independent Spirit Award Nominees & Winners

Winner marked with *

Best Feature:

127 Hours
*Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
Winter's Bone

(interestingly, 4 of those went on to be Oscar nominees. Good year for independent film)

Best Director:

*Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Danny Boyle - 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko - The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik - Winter's Bone
John Cameron Mitchell - Rabbit Hole

Best First Feature:

Everything Strange and New
*Get Low
The Last Exorcism
Night Catches Us
Tiny Furniture

Oscar Predictions: all the other categories

Originally posted on 25 Jan 2011:


Editing is one of the more ‘important’ technical awards, because it is so closely tied to story-telling & therefore to Bes t Director, which – in turn – is closely linked to Best Picture.
How did we know for sure that The Hurt Locker was definitely beating the odds to win Best Picture (besides that nomination for Best Score)? When it beat Avatar in Best Editing.

With my frontrunner – Inception – out of the race, the most obviously well directed film is The Social Network. In fact, it likely deserves to win even if Inception was in this race. Brilliantly intercutting multiple timelines & thereby allowing character conversations in one scene to become narration in another, without being flashy, the editing enables David Fincher to tell a seemingly straight-forward story with a distinct and changing rhythm. 

Although the other nominees are all strong, I don’t see how The Social Network can miss here, unless The King’s Speech does a proper sweep and steals editing. In my opinion, The King’s Speech is the weakest of the editing nominees, and it is the only category where it did not win the Guild Award (The Social Network did).

If The King’s Speech wins editing, we know it’s taking everything, including Director, Picture (and Supporting Actor?). If The Social Network takes editing, and there is every reason why it should, David Fincher’s chances at Best Director increase exponentially, but Best Picture still belongs to The King’s Speech.


Being the latest nomination for unawarded genius & legend Roger Deakins, True Grit must win.

True Grit Poster

Set Design:

Anything other than Inception would be laughable. The sets are sensational & integral to the concept & plot.
But if The King’s Speech sweeps... it does have gorgeous sets... I think they’ll have the smarts to go with Inception, though.

(Interestingly, if Alice in Wonderland loses this one, it will be the first Tim Burton film to be nominated for Best Set Design without winning).

Inception Poster

Oscar Predictions: Top 8 categories

Originally posted 22 Feb 2011:

Best Picture: Social Network vs The King’s Speech

This year’s Best Picture nominees cover 4 true stories, 2 literary adaptations, 2 fever dream visions & two very different ‘family’ films – one family-friendly animation that made grown men cry & one alternative-family indie.

But the race, without a doubt, comes down to The Social Network (TSN) The King’s Speech (TKS).

Social Network picked up every single critic’s award & topped it off with the Golden Globe for Best Drama – an unprecedented winning streak that seemed to paving its path straight to the Oscar podium.

But then, along came the – arguably – more influential Guild Awards (made up of actual academy members from different technical branches) and uniformly turned the ship in favour of King’s Speech. The BAFTA’s, understandably, followed suit and fell all over King’s Speech before the Academy declared its love by nominating King’s Speech 12 times, in each conceivable category, to Social Network’s 8.

The very influential Director’s Guild also crowned Tom Hooper (TKS) director of the year over top seeded David Fincher (TSN).

What keeps the race interesting, however, is one last flash of hope for those in the TSN camp: According to Google Oscar Search Trendssince 2008 all 3 of the Best Picture winners - The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire No Country for Old Men - have had an upward trend in Google search volumes in the last weeks leading up to the Oscar ceremony, as well as the highest regional interest from New York (in 2007, Best Picture winner The Departed had the highest regional interest from Massechusettes, unsurprising as the film is set in Boston).

This year, the film inspiring the most Google searches - with just days to go before the Oscars - is, appropriately enough, The Social Network. It sure would be one helluva exciting & trend-bucking race if the Google search trend holds up & The Social Network pulls back into first place in the final moments.

Christopher Nolan's snub (& all the other Oscar nominations)

It's awesome seeing  two female-driven films nominated for Best Picture - The Kids Are All Right & Winter's Bone, and think it is worth having The Town excluded.

I'm seriously floored that they snubbed Christopher Nolan, though. Again. Seriously? Helps with the Hitchcock comparisons, though... Even harder to swallow is that Inception was not nominated for Best Editing?! What were they thinking?

Another strange oversight is no Tron: Legacy for Visual Effects. Strange...

But whoop whoop! Javier Bardem for Best Actor, Michelle Williams for Best Actress & Another Year for Best Original Screenplay!

& NO Burlesque songs anywhere in sight!! (Cher was wrong - we had heard the last of her).

Here is the full list of this year's Oscar Nominees (Thanks,

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Last minute Oscar predictions

Originally posted on 25 Jan 2011:

I've been meaning to get to these for ages, but in the final moments before this year's nominees are announced, let me take a stab at predicting the 83rd annual academy awards:

Best Picture:

The Social Network
The King's Speech
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Black Swan
The Fighter
127 Hours
Winter's Bone
The Town

The Kids Are All Right

I decided the praise & multiple nominations for Winter's Bone and The Town trump long-time favourite frontrunner. I have also had to eat my words about The Fighter. It's so in.

Best Director:

David Fincher - The Social Network
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Christopher Nolan - Inception
Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
Danny Boyle - 127 Hours

The Coen Brothers - True Grit
David O'Russell - The Fighter
Debra Granik - Winter's Bone

(Argh! How could I vote against the Coens?! I just don't see any of the others missing. 127 Hours trumps because it is such a 'Director's movie'...)

Best Actress:

Anette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Leslie Manville - Another Year

Julianne Moore - The Kids are All Right
Noomi Rapace - Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine

Manville has been a bit overlooked, but I'm putting my money her. I think the strength of her performance will come through.  Any of the 3 alternates would be awesome as well. 

There is also an outside chance that Hailee Steinfeld breaks out of the supporting catagory & steals the 5th Best Actress slot, but I'm not betting on it.

Oscar contenders - Best Actor: Jeff Bridges

First posted on 18 Jan 2011:

This one is very easy to explain. Jeff Bridges is awesome. One of the most natural, effortless, offbeat actors around. 

The Essential Jeff Bridges list is a long one: he has given memorable performances like only he could in The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Starman, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, Fearless, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Big Lebowski, The Contender, Seabiscuit, The Door in the Floor & most recently won his Oscar playing run down country singer / alcoholic grappling at a last chance in Crazy Heart. And he's starred in not one, but two Tron movies & battled Iron Man!

His Crazy Heart Oscar was given as much for his career as for his performance, but he really couldn't have played it better. You could believe he was born in a pair of sweaty jeans.