Wednesday, 30 January 2013

REVIEW - ROBOT & FRANK


Boosted by a more pointed tone than many American indie comedy-dramas of its ilk, Robot & Frank is a formulaic but engrossing diversion. If there is a film for every occasion, this one is one-size-fits-all - perfect for a rainy afternoon, a cold evening or when you need a little cheering up. It's unchallenging, almost to a fault, in fact, as there are thematic depths untroubled by the screenplay, which seems to avoid them each time they threaten to emerge. But if Robot & Frank aims to satisfy your comfort rather than your curiosity as a viewer, it is a most satisfactory film. The fragmented treatment of secondary characters and the arbitrariness of the low-level heist plot might have suggested a narrative reflection of Frank's advancing senility in a more focused film, but that then might have spoiled its carefree nature. As it is, its weaknesses are continually masked by its warmth and affability, and only become clear once it has finished, when one is less likely to care. And isn't it refreshing to see debut filmmakers content to make a modest, simple piece of entertainment, rather than naively rely on overreaching ambition and questionable levels of skill? Perhaps not always, but I think there's space enough in the industry for talents like director Jake Schreier and writer Christopher D. Ford. Leading cast members approach their roles with an absence of pretentiousness, and palpable chemistry, and there's a smart late-game twist that contributes an unexpected emotional component to this experience, which is welcome. This helps to redeem some of the less inspired moments, as does the comedy side of proceedings - this is a stronger comedy than drama, with a handful of terrific one-liners right out of Woody Allen.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

REVIEW - MOVIE 43


It's easy not to laugh. Just tell yourself you're going to see a drama. Tell yourself Movie 43 is not a funny film, and it might surprise you. In fact, let me. Movie 43 is not a funny film. I did laugh, but very rarely, and when the gag rate is this high, that's a bad sign. Another bad sign is when you realise that your everyday life is, on the whole, funnier than the comedy you just walked out of. That might make you laugh at least. A series of short sketches, so short that you may have seen most of some of them in trailers, connected by a framing device which is wholly different in the US and internationally, for no evident reason. The one I saw was offensively unfunny (in that I was offended that the writers thought any member of the human race, myself included, could find it funny), but so too is the majority of this enterprise. It will be, to many who see it (but many more who don't), just offensive. Puerility is a trait which most of us almost comprehensively exhaust during adolescence, and Movie 43 thrives on it. I saw and heard writers straining to make me cringe and wince and gag and reel... but haven't I been here before? Aren't these the same gay, genital-related, bullying, sex, race and shit (literally) jokes we all told and heard when we were 12? The cast of estimable Hollywood stars participate in the apparent hope of proving how game they are - for most, the only positive will be that they will never appear in anything quite as bad as this for the remainder of their careers (this doesn't include Seann William Scott).

Monday, 28 January 2013

OSCAR PREDICTIONS 14 - 4 WEEKS TO AWARDS


Back to Argo. Makes sense, the way things are going. I keep hearing Michael Haneke's name being read out on the stage for Best Director. Still a bit of a mess, though. Still no idea. These would have been up yesterday; as with two weeks ago and the Golden Globes, I wanted to wait until after the SAGs, so couldn't post these on Sunday (yesterday) as it was after 3a.m. here and I needed to go to bed and pretend to be able to sleep.

Best Picture
Argo (Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov)
Best Directing
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Chris Terrio (Argo)

REVIEW - HYDE PARK ON HUDSON


All over the place, and yet in no place at all. Who knows what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with this sloppy period drama? Not even themselves, it appears. Shortly prior to the first ever visit of a British monarch to America, President Roosevelt summons his distant cousin, Margaret Suckley, to his rural home, where he woos her with a wank and she effectively becomes one of his concubines. The royals arrive and unsuccessfully try to conceal their rampant xenophobia (it is presented here as a most British trait, odd given that much of the principal cast and crew members are British), before abandoning it altogether over a hot dog, and everything will be alright. As the President instructs his timid and thoroughly humiliated Piece of Ass No. 3 Margaret to smear mustard on the King's hot dog, you'll begin to understand why they didn't include this bit in The King's Speech (needless to say, no Oscar nominations for Hyde Park on Hudson). The King and Queen's quaint priggishness is gainfully employed as the only successful humour in the film, aided by astute performances, particularly from reliable scene-stealer Olivia Colman. Rather suddenly, though, their behaviour becomes unbearable. It's a wonder anyone thought to make a film of this sojourn; in fact, as told via an embarrassingly chick-lit-worthy narration, it is Margaret's story, yet the focus meanders from her to the President to the royals to the President's other kept women, never with much discernible insight. Scenes are staged in the manner of an amateur middle-brow director aiming for a subtly quirky effect, which is what makes Hyde Park so peculiar, and such a mess. He so frequently veers off course, such as in a nighttime chase through the woods, that the film has the air of something stitched together from a troubled shoot with several different directors, none ever fully in command of the material. It may not have been a troubled shoot, but it's a troubled watch for sure.

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARD WINNERS


Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)

Best Ensemble
Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy and Chris Messina (Argo)

Best Stunt Ensemble
Skyfall

Sunday, 27 January 2013

CHLOTRUDIS AWARD NOMINATIONS


Best Movie
Beasts of the Southern Wild 
Bullhead
Monsieur Lazhar
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Tyrannosaur

Best Director
Was Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone)
Hirokazu Koreeda (I Wish)
Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz)
Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Best Actor
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Frank Langella (Robot & Frank)
Denis Lavant (Holy Motors)
Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur)
Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead)
Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone)

Best Actress
Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur)
Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Best Supporting Actor
Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Isaac Leyva (Any Day Now)
Matthew McConaughey (Bernie)
Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams (The Master)
Moon Bloodgood (The Sessions)
Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister's Sister)
Edith Scob (Holy Motors)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA WINNERS


Best Picture
Argo (Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov)

Best Animated Feature
Wreck-It Ralph (Clark Spencer)

Best Documentary
Searching for Sugar Man (Simon Chinn)

REVIEW - A LATE QUARTET


Coffee-table filmmaking. And if there's one (sub-)genre of film to which I will likely never warm, it's coffee-table filmmaking. One wonders if the New York art elite wouldn't rather attend a live performance of Beethoven's exquisite Opus 131, the String Quartet in C# minor - why make a film about it? Posh New York musicians in posh New York apartments playing posh music, and all with very posh problems. All save one: Christopher Walken's cellist Peter, whose Parkinson's diagnosis is the first domino in the line of misfortunes to befall the Fugue Quartet. His is the only problem in which he played no conscious role, though, and his domino falls in the opposite direction to the rest of the line, so why is it that the other three members' lives begin to crumble too? I suppose their egos stretch so far out that it doesn't matter where that domino fell, it hit them anyway. You know that one where the violist was once in a relationship with the 1st violinist, but now she's married to the 2nd? Yup. And the one where they have a row in the back of a taxi so he cheats on her and she finds out and they split up? Yup. And now the 1st is secretly seeing their daughter, whom he teaches? Yup. And you know the way this all happens to real people in real life? No. Even the musical elements of the film are flunked - the actors do commendable jobs of faking professional musical aptitude with all possible precision, but repeated shots of this only make it ever more obvious how dreadfully inept their attempts are. It's comically excruciating in the final scene. And the screenplay treats the music with intense reverence, yet a lack of erudition, offering up tedious platitudes regarding the power of music, and the lives of musicians, in wordy scenes which go utterly nowhere. This is a film mostly consisting of people verbalising emotion after emotion, to either no perceivable end or to a most predictable one, as if these actors weren't capable of expressing all of this in about a tenth of the time. They ought to have cut most of the dialogue, and concentrated on the Beethoven - I'd rather attend a live performance of it, even if Christopher Walken does have to spoil it. Let him - he hits the only true note in this tiresome film.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

REVIEW - PROMISED LAND


A deceptive slice of American pie, with a sickly, mass-produced demeanour, and a virtuous filling. It's dressed up like a trite old heartwarmer, but the liberal sincerity of the script bleeds through the glossiness. It infects the film around it, which is to say that it makes a flat, insipid film go sour and silly. You can't kill a film that's dead on arrival. Gus van Sant turns hired hand to direct this film, originally intended to be star and co-writer Matt Damon's debut behind the camera, and does so passionlessly, in a sedated monotone which he adopts when he wants to go Hollywood - I find the schizophrenia of his career choices less bothersome than the disparity of quality in his output. There's no evident attempt to enliven the film, although the occasional amble in the countryside is to some people's tastes. Damon and the trustworthy Frances McDormand play roles so determinedly ordinary that they don't convince - the right choice to draft these characters as good souls in nasty jobs, but both seem too nice to be comfortable making a living out of manipulating honest people trying to make a living. There are some unexpected developments in the plot in what feels like the beginning of the third act, forcing the film to a sputtering halt, and goodness only knows how gullible you'll have to be to buy into them. The blandness with which the generic female characters are depicted is also disheartening. A shame that this is such a cack-handed, dreary film, alternately cornball and watery polemic, as it has a fair point to make, even if Damon and John Krasinski's ardency disables them from adequately grasping the basic truths on the other side of the argument too. All involved have seen, and will see, better days, and you've seen better films.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

REVIEW - THE HOUSE I LIVE IN


A lesson in the form of a film. But what a worthwhile lesson! Eugene Jarecki skillfully assembles a panoply of information on America's 'War on Drugs' into a cohesive, convincing argument that is so vehement and so extensive that it lays waste to the very concept of this so-called war. This is one of those maddening examples of a case so undeniably fair, simple and sensible, and also undeniable in its plain facts, that it might erase all faith you have in politicians, or even the political system. At least the justice system. Jarecki doesn't even attempt to provide reason for the other side of the debate - there is no reason there, only thoughtless, cavalier political rhetoric and cowardice, and racism. Are these points which need to be made? Is this information not generally well-known already? Maybe, although to observe the facts laid out with precision and in full historical context is to become wholly aware of how dire the situation is, and Jarecki achieves this with an appreciation of the strength of basic filmmaking techniques. A good documentary will remind you of how powerful the medium of film can be when treated appropriately. He meanders somewhat, and it begins to feel as though the film could go on for several hours, never settling on any specific story, until Jarecki arrives at his destination - a blanket rhetoric for the opposition, disturbing, all-encompassing, prophetic. You may scoff, but would you then scoff at your own irresponsibility? Because there is no happy ending proposed here, only further, and increasing, pain.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

REVIEW - 5 BROKEN CAMERAS


A focus on the lives of the innocent during wartime unburdens this documentary from the challenge of depicting its story with balance. Composed solely of camera footage from Emad Burnat's documentation of his own life, and those of his friends, family and neighbours in a Palestinian town close to an Israeli separation barrier, the validity of the images is irrefutable, and, wisely, no slant is attributed to the footage. The violence of the Israeli soldiers is clear, as is the (mostly) non-violence of the Palestinian civilians. 5 Broken Cameras does not attempt to share the perspective of the aggressors - how can it, as it is only this one man's perspective that can be shared; these are his cameras, and this is his life. Thus, claims of bias are unsustainable. He is an innocent farmer, existing as best he can in the face of oppression and violence, and this is what we witness. No doubt there are equally touching stories of innocent Israelis whose lives are disrupted and whose rights are abused by the other side, but this is not one such story. It is what it is, and thereby condemns only those who condemn themselves through their actions, as caught on camera. Burnat's footage is extensive enough that efficacious editing has generated a strong narrative for the film, with insight into his family life, and the effects of the war on the town and its inhabitants. It is often a sad film, with plot progressions that would befit a fictional recreation, yet which, as fact, harbour much more meaningful emotive power.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

OSCAR PREDICTIONS 13 - 5 WEEKS TO AWARDS


First, I thought Argo. Then I realised I didn't have it down to win anything else. Then, I though Silver Linings Playbook, so I had to find room for David O. Russell in Director and Jennifer Lawrence in Actress. Then, I decided Lawrence wouldn't beat Chastain, and it had to go. Not feeling Haneke and Riva any more, almost went for Lee. So Lincoln it is then! Who knows, maybe Lincoln is about to sweep the guilds. SLP won't get the DGA at least! #clusterfuck

Best Picture
Lincoln (Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg)
Best Directing
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Tony Kushner (Lincoln)

LONDON CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS


Film of the Year
Amour
Director of the Year
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Actor of the Year
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
Actress of the Year
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Supporting Actor of the Year
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Supporting Actress of the Year
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Screenwriter of the Year
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Technical Achievement Award
Bill Westenhofer (Life of Pi)
Documentary of the Year
The Imposter
Foreign Language Film of the Year
Rust and Bone (StudioCanal)

INTERNATIONAL CINEPHILE SOCIETY NOMINATIONS


Best Picture
·          Amour
·          Cloud Atlas
·          Django Unchained
·          Holy Motors
·          Lincoln
·          The Master
·          Moonrise Kingdom
·          Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
·          Tabu
·          Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director
·          Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
·          Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
·          Leos Carax (Holy Motors)
·          Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia)
·          Miguel Gomes (Tabu)

Best Actor
·          Anders Danielsen Lie (Oslo, August 31st)
·          Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
·          Denis Lavant (Holy Motors)
·          Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
·          Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead)
·          Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour)

Best Actress
·          Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
·          Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
·          Greta Gerwig (Damsels in Distress)
·          Nina Hoss (Barbara)
·          Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
·          Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea)

Best Supporting Actor
·          Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
·          Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
·          Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe)
·          Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
·          Yu Jun Sang (In Another Country)

Best Supporting Actress
·          Amy Adams (The Master)
·          Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister)
·          Gina Gershon (Killer Joe)
·          Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy)
·          Edith Scob (Holy Motors)

Best Original Screenplay
·          Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
·          Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
·          Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
·          Leos Carax (Holy Motors)
·          Miguel Gomes and Mariana Ricardo (Tabu)
·          Michael Haneke (Amour)

Best Adapted Screenplay
·          Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain (Rust and Bone)
·          David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis)
·          Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea)
·          Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
·          Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt (Oslo, August 31st)

Saturday, 19 January 2013

REVIEW - WEST OF MEMPHIS


Stories like this have no end. There have been three documentaries made on the West Memphis Three, the Paradise Lost trilogy, which covered their convictions, incarcerations and alleged crimes in such detail that this new documentary, independent of those films, might seem unnecessary. But it is the new evidence in the case, and there are always more sides to these kinds of stories, and more connections to be made. For, despite the persistence of the state of Arkansas, negligent and self-seeking, it is both common sense and common knowledge that the WM3 are innocent of the three child murders that sent them to prison for eighteen years. Amy Berg and her editor / co-writer Billy McMillin assiduously arrange the details of the case, and of the years since, with all the subsequent efforts to free the WM3. Every element is addressed, even if only in passing, and dozens of prominent faces feature in interviews, footage or both; still, there is a clarity to the narrative, actuated by the filmmakers' focus - they have goals in sight, which they have seen through over several years of production, whether they have been realised fully, in part or only in suggestion. What they are suggesting relates to the identity of the real culprit, whom they brazenly identify. He cuts a more likely figure than those convicted, yet while this argument may appear incontrovertible, it struck me that these methods of investigation and accusation are not far removed from those used to convict the WM3 and to implicate former suspect John Mark Byers, which is unsettling from an investigative perspective. A too-happy ending also feels ill, with the implication that the freedom of the WM3 is worth a guilty plea and the insurance, thereby, that the killer will never be brought to justice. The film becomes a personal portrait of Damien Echols, which is not an appropriate course to take, after over two hours on another course. This is more than just a personal story - it is a story of relevance anywhere justice is not served, any day from this day forward. When all those connected to this particular story are dead and buried, it can't just be forgotten. Stories like this have no end.

Friday, 18 January 2013

GEORGIA FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION WINNERS


Best Motion Picture
Silver Linings Playbook
Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Best Supporting Actor
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Best Supporting Actress
Judi Dench (Skyfall)
Best Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
Best Adapted Screenplay
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

MOTION PICTURE SOUND EDITORS NOMINATIONS


Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film
Argo
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Prometheus
Skyfall

Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook
Skyfall

Argo
The Cabin in the Woods
The Dark Knight Rises
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

Thursday, 17 January 2013

COSTUME DESIGNERS GUILD NOMINATIONS


Best Costume Design – Period Film
Paco Delgado (Les Misérables)
Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina)
Joanna Johnston (Lincoln)
Kasia Walicka-Maimone (Moonrise Kingdom)
Jacqueline West (Argo)