Thursday, 4 February 2016

REVIEW - RACING EXTINCTION (LOUIE PSIHOYOS)


We're all fucked! If that's the message that Louie Psihoyos would like you to derive from Racing Extinction, he certainly goes a long way toward denouncing it. There's a corny cheerfulness about this film that embeds itself into the justifiable terror and tragedy at its core early, but becomes particularly potent in its final stretches. Extinction has never looked so cosy, nor should it, as platitudes masquerading as inspirational slogans adorn the exterior walls of the U.N. Headquarters in New York, and a city full of armchair liberals gawps with glee. The only changes worth making will be inspired not by the pithy pandering that closes out Racing Extinction (set to a Sia song, no less), but by a genuine response to the genuine horror that Psihoyos presents prior to it. The world around us is dying, and we're responsible - this message is clear, if familiar, but the urgency with which it is made adds a distressing timbre to that clarity. We really are all fucked, and Racing Extinction is a colourful, memorable, slightly too comfortable declaration of despair, capped off with hope that one wonders maybe we'd be better off - less complacent - without. Artistically, there's no question that this film would be better off without it: alternately a twee TV wildlife documentary and a skin-deep expose, Psihoyos' passion is practically all there is going for his film, ensuring that the most salient points get put across even as the film around them settles for soft-peddled banality. There's nothing banal about the end of the world! Take what you will from Racing Extinction, but if you don't take that crucial sense of urgency from it, then please: since we're all fucked anyway, you can go fuck yourself.

MILES AHEAD - TRAILER FOR MILES DAVIS BIOPIC


Don Cheadle writes, directs, produces and stars in Miles Ahead, the biopic of iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. The film received its world premiere last October at the New York Film Festival, but has been held off for release until this year. It's set to come out in the US on the 1st of April, and in the UK on the 22nd. Check out the trailer above.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS WINS TOP VES AWARD


As with many of the technical Oscar categories this year, Visual Effects is a tough one to call. But not between Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, as in many cases - instead, it's between Mad Max and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the latter film has received the Visual Effects Society's seal of approval. Indeed, there were awards only for all three films mentioned above in the Photoreal categories,  with The Revenant claiming the Best Supporting Visual Effects award. The Good Dinosaur fairly cleaned up in the Animated categories, missing only one award to fellow Pixar feature Inside OutCheck out VES' nominees here, and their award winners below:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Paul Kavanagh, Luke O'Byrne and Patrick Tubach (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
Ivy Agregan, Nicolas Chevallier, Richard McBride, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer (The Revenant)

Outstanding Models in a Photoreal or Animated Project
Matthew Denton, Landis Fields, Cyrus Jam and Joshua Lee - 'BB-8' (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project
Colin Benoit, Paul Kavanagh, Greg Salter and Yukuhiro Susumu - 'Falcon chase / graveyard' (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature
T. C. Harrison, Charles Lai, Donny Rausch and Alan Travis - 'Bear attack' (The Revenant)

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature
Yannick Dusseault, Quentin Marmier, Justin van der Lek and Mike Wood - 'Falcon chase / graveyard' (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Outstanding Simulations in a Photoreal Feature
Dan Bethell, Clinton Downs and Chris Young' - 'Toxic storm' (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Outstanding Animated Performance in a Photoreal Feature
Karin Cooper, Leandro Estebecorena, Gaelle Morand and Matt Shumway - 'The bear' (The Revenant)

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature
Sanjay Bakshi, Denise Ream, Jon Reisch and Michael Venturini (The Good Dinosaur)

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature
Matt Kuruc, Tom Miller, David Munier and Matthew Webb - 'The farm' (The Good Dinosaur)

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature
Hemagiri Arumugam, Michael Hall, Stephen Marshall and Magnus Wrenninge (The Good Dinosaur)

Outstanding Animated Performance in an Animated Feature
Alexis Angelidis, Tanja Krampfert, Shawn Krause and Jacob Merrell - 'Joy' (Inside Out)

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
Francesco Faranna and Andreas Feix (Citipati)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

REVIEW - 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (MICHAEL BAY)


There is no more ardent purveyor of the kind of fascistic, jingoistic bravura mayhem that action films needlessly thrive on than Michael Bay. Here is a filmmaker wholly attuned to his shortcomings, so much so that one suspects he flaunts, perhaps even heightens them out of sheer gall, before swiftly returning to the aforementioned mayhem. The downtime in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi functions as preparation, as an aside, or as an extension of the poisonous politics that Bay pushes in his action sequences, never negating the effect of the film's raison d'etre, rather bolstering it. This is a brutish hurrah to brutishness, idiotic and intolerant, and flawlessly so. It's innately suspicious of intellect, and any form of compassion that diverges from those select American values that Bay holds dear - family, blind loyalty and superiority based upon strength and convention. 13 Hours is an admirably-made piece of A-grade American muscle, but it's too noxious for me, and I cannot detach my opinion on its technical excellence from my opinion on its political ugliness when evaluating it as a whole. It unsettled me, stirred up disquiet that I don't like to imagine anyone experiencing, especially not when provoked by works of art (ftr, there are many types of disquiet which I'd encourage art to stir up otherwise). Yet Bay, the craftsman not the politician (he's infinitely more talented as such), produces some of his finest work in 13 Hours, evidently enthused by this film's smaller scale, compared to most of his other output. It's perversely thrilling to watch him find new ways to manufacture an action set-piece, even if his chaotic style of direction renders the story even more impossible to follow. Admittedly, 13 Hours is largely structured as a video game, which is where all such films tend to lose me. As the pinnacle of Michael Bay's fascistic, jingoistic outlook on filmmaking, this film lost me before it had even begun.

Monday, 1 February 2016

REVIEW - MY NAZI LEGACY (DAVID EVANS)


Journalists, historians and real people: their memories, their stories, up close and upfront. David Evans - the filmmaker, the artist - yields to the inherent simplicity of this everyday, analytical approach, content in the complexity of what it abundantly reveals. My Nazi Legacy is clear and comprehensive, yet characterised by a disarming intimacy and depth of thought that resonate far longer than any potential artistic interpretation - smartly eschewed by Evans. It could have run on for over twice its length, or been snipped to a mere scene or two, and it'd have fulfilled its mandate to inquire, to seek out truths about today that can only be uncovered through delving into the past. In that, My Nazi Legacy is the ideal length: however long it happens to be. There is more basic intelligence in this film than in almost every other, acquired via Philippe Sands' astute co-ordination of dispassionate objectivity and informed, emotional subjectivity, though also via the candour of his subjects, Niklas Frank and Horst von Wachter, lifelong friends and children of high-ranking Nazis. As a plain old rumination on the past - indeed, on a period of the past already ruminated on countless times before - My Nazi Legacy is incisive, if somewhat dry and lacking in revelation. As a rumination on the endurance of evil, and the peculiar relationship between family, character and principle, it's a banner work of documentary filmmaking. In fact, it functions less as a film as we have come to understand that concept, and more as a work of historical journalism - memories and stories, up close and upfront.

OSCAR CONTENDERS WIN ART DIRECTORS GUILD AWARDS


Since Cinderella failed to pick up a richly deserved Oscar nomination for its stunning production design, my prediction that it'd win an ADG award faltered. Instead, voters chose films for their three awards which not only carried corresponding Oscar nods but which also carried Oscar Best Picture nods. In particular, The Revenant's success in the Period category confirms its status as one to watch in Oscar's tech categories, where it has otherwise appeared to mostly lag behind Mad Max: Fury Road. See for yourself both the Art Directors Guild nominations, and, below, their award winners.

Excellence in Production Design - Period
Jack Fisk (The Revenant)

Excellence in Production Design - Fantasy
Colin Gibson (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Excellence in Production Design - Contemporary
Arthur Max (The Martian)

Sunday, 31 January 2016

THE BIRTH OF A NATION WINS BIG AT 2016 SUNDANCE AWARDS


The evening of the 30th of January 2016 could go down in history as a watershed for diversity in the American film industry. Alongside an astonishing display of support for inclusion from the Screen Actors Guild, there were wins in a similar vein at the conclusion of the Sundance Film Festival. Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation won both jury and audience awards in the U.S. Dramatic section of the fest, and there were acting awards for Craig Robinson for Morris from America and Joe Seo for Spa Night. Furthermore, both top jury awards in the World Cinema sections were presented to women. What a heartening show of support for progression in American film. Check out all the winners right here:

U.S. Dramatic Awards

Grand Jury Prize
The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker)

Special Jury Prize
As You Are (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte)

Directing Award
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man)

Special Jury Award - Individual Performance
Melanie Lynskey (The Intervention)
Craig Robinson (Morris from America)

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
Chad Hartigan (Morris from America)

Special Jury Award - Breakthrough Performance
Joe Seo (Spa Night)

Audience Award
The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker)

U.S. Documentary Awards

Grand Jury Prize
Weiner (Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg)

Directing Award
Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated)

Special Jury Award - Writing
Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine)

Special Jury Award - Editing
Penny Lane and Thom Stylinski (Nuts!)

Special Jury Award - Social Impact Filmmaking
Trapped (Dawn Porter)

Special Jury Award - Verite Filmmaking
The Bad Kids (Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe)

Audience Award
Jim: The James Foley (Brian Oakes)

World Cinema Dramatic Awards

Grand Jury Prize
Sand Storm (Elite Zexer)

Directing Award
Felix van Groeningen (Belgica)

Special Jury Award - Acting
Manolo Cruz and Vicky Hernandez (Between Sea and Land)

Special Jury Award - Screenwriting
Ines Bortagaray and Ana Katz (My Friend from the Park)

Special Jury Award - Unique Vision and Design
The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska)

Audience Award
Between Sea and Land (Manolo Cruz and Carlos del Castillo)

World Cinema Documentary Awards

Grand Jury Prize
Sonita (Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami)

Directing Award
Michal Marczak (All These Sleepless Nights)

Special Jury Award - Cinematography
Pieter-Jan de Pue (The Land of the Enlightened)

Special Jury Award - Editing
Kamitsuna Mako and John Maringouin (We Are X)

Special Jury Award for Debut Feature
Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel (When Two Worlds Collide)

Audience Award
Sonita (Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami)

Other Awards

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra)

Next Audience Award
First Girl I Loved (Kerem Sanga)

OBIT - FRANK FINLAY


Treasure of stage and screen alike, British actor Frank Finlay died yesterday, the 30th of January 2016, aged 89. A RADA graduate, and frequent performer with the National Theatre in the West End, Finlay was a popular and prominent presence on the London stage, but was known the world over for his roles on television and in film. A mere few years into his big screen career, he was nominated for an Oscar for playing Iago in Laurence Olivier's Othello, an adaptation of the theatre production in which he had starred alongside his blacked-up co-lead and director. He went on to appear in such film titles as Gumshoe, The Three Musketeers, The Pianist and Norman Jewison's The Statement. Alongside his Oscar nomination, Finlay received nods from BAFTA, twice for film and twice for TV (including one win), the Golden Globes, and the San Sebastian International Film Festival for Othello. He is survived by his three children from deceased wife Doreen, Stephen, Cathy and Daniel. His absence will be felt within the dramatic community, and those around the world who follow it.

DIVERSITY DOMINATES AT SAG AWARDS; SPOTLIGHT WINS ENSEMBLE CAST


We have ourselves an Oscar race! The feeling that The Big Short could have the Best Picture category locked down after its PGA award a week ago was upset tonight by closest rival Spotlight's Ensemble Cast prize at the Screen Actors Guild awards. SAG rarely gives this award to a film that doesn't win one of its four individual acting categories, but this was far from the biggest surprise of the evening: Idris Elba's Supporting Actor win for Beasts of No Nation (one of two for Elba, including a TV award for Luther) makes him the first person in history to win a SAG award for film without a corresponding Oscar nomination. Pair that with the fact that only one TV award for which no POC were nominated went to a white person, and you have quite the statement to the Academy... Check out SAG's film nominations here, and their film awards below:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Brie Larson (Room)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Billy Crudup, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci (Spotlight)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
Mad Max: Fury Road

Saturday, 30 January 2016

ACE EDDIE AWARDS: MAD MAX AND THE BIG SHORT ADVANCE IN OSCAR RACE


It was a done deal, lbr. Hank Corwin for The Big Short and Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road both won ACE Eddie awards yesterday, cementing their position as joint frontrunners in the Oscar Best Editing race. That award will be tougher to call, though, with potential spoiler The Revenant right at their heels. Check out the American Cinema Editors' nominations at this link, and their winners below:

Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic)
Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy)
Hank Corwin (The Big Short)

Best Edited Animated Feature Film
Kevin Nolting (Inside Out)

Best Edited Documentary (Feature)
Chris King (Amy)