Monday, 30 May 2016

REVIEW - ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (JAMES BOBIN)


Breaking the rules by the numbers: two contradictory cliches do not make one original film in Alice Through the Looking Glass, a film that fittingly defies itself in pursuit of meaning and purpose. If Lewis Carroll should turn in his grave, you may turn from the cinema and stroll straight out - a wise choice if you've seen this film's predecessor, Alice in Wonderland. The two films are bound not only by story and character but by tone, design, demographic, and the remarkable sensation of being overwhelmed by banality, of being confronted with limitless artistic and technical wizardry yet being moved by so little of it - a genuine contradiction, perhaps. Since the two are so alike, this latter film is best analysed in direct comparison to the former. As such, it's neither as odd nor as fresh, but resultantly not as willfully enervating. It's not as aesthetically attractive, but only by a little. It's thematically more aware, which is to little diegetic avail, but since so little of Alice Through the Looking Glass actually is, this is one of the more savourable aspects to the film. Indeed, the finest takeaways here are often the most fleeting: there's Helena Bonham Carter's amusing performance as the Red Queen, there's appealing production design - markedly, gratifyingly more physical, more tactile than before - by Dan Hennah, and there's the bizarre sight of a film that casts Geraldine James, seems to make a genuine effort to provide her with even a single line of dialogue, and yet somehow fails. It's an appropriate summation of Alice Through the Looking Glass on the whole, in fact: fitfully fun, but despite all it tries, it's ultimately a failure.

LES COWBOYS - TRAILER


Last May, Thomas Bidegain's Les Cowboys was one of the best-received films screening at the Cannes Film Festival, if not quite securing unanimous praise from attending critics. It finally reaches US screens on the 24th of June, with the above trailer playing up American movie star John C. Reilly's role in an obvious attempt at drumming up interest. The trailer does a decent job of that, however, inspiring some of that interest in me too. No UK release has yet been confirmed.

TRAILER FOR WIENER-DOG


Out on the 24th of June in the US, here's the first trailer for Todd Solondz's new movie Wiener-Dog. It's the latest of the American auteur's many films about weird white people, but features a more commercial tone (or appears to) than most of his previous work. Check it out!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

REVIEW - THE DAY BEFORE THE END (LAV DIAZ)


Shouting into the void: not the past but the future, a cultural landscape devastated by indifference. The West has infiltrated the East, usurped its codes and conventions with its own, creating a clusterfuck of nonsense, and its silent, sinister wake. Lav Diaz once more pulls from the past to illustrate the present, and gives a glimpse of that future in The Day Before the End, a montage of bewilderment that will bewilder its viewers. Who, what, why: any number of questions, and many more answers, though too few of any discernible consequence. In Diaz's desolation, you take what you can. He respects artists, and the artistic process, but laments the perceived pointlessness therein - the actors unheard, unnoticed, standing strong and shouting, preserving for preservation's sake. He loves his country, or is it just an idea of his country, an aspiration for it? Is it more of a reminiscence that he prefers, one lifted from the works of other artists, foreign artists? If his nation's self-destruction was not, in fact, by itself, but by Western influence, then can its salvation truly be Shakespeare, a paragon of Western culture? Or is that salvation too merely a reminiscence, a poignant reminder from what is before? And he fears - a danger that is identified yet unidentifiable, something at stake, but exactly what? Equally unidentifiable. If it truly is the day before the end, what to do? Diaz gives up and keeps going, a hopeless harbinger yet a determined one. If all we can do is shout into the void, then at least someone has something to shout about.

Friday, 27 May 2016

REVIEW - NINA (CYNTHIA MORT)


Incompetence reigns in Nina, a blazing beacon to light the way of 'What Not To Do' when making a movie. An exploitative industry unmasked and unwittingly unpicked in this most egregious example of it - in the basic conceit and in the efforts to disguise that exploitation. Put simply: to 'honour' the life of Nina Simone, one of the most gifted, outspoken, influential figures in the Civil Rights Movement, with a treatment so dishonest, so misguided is a grave insult to the woman herself and to the whole movement; to proffer the legitimacy of that treatment, to insist upon its artistic and political merit, is to discredit all that both she and they stood for. Nina is no mere mistake either, since its callous distortion of history and honesty is entirely willful, an attempt at bolstering dramatic intensity at the expense of dramatic integrity. This is a common trait among films based on true events, but it's a despicable one when it contributes to a betrayal of the nature and purpose of those events. To boot, Nina is also an example of hideous filmmaking, truly awesome awfulness. Cynthia Mort's direction is devoid of atmosphere, structure, at times even a fundamental understanding of how to frame an image so that it is comprehensible. Her script is one clunking platitude after another, lacking in the most rudimentary knowledge of its subject's character, consistently shoehorning truths about her life into false constructs to add more conventional 'colour.' Speaking of colour, the skin-darkening makeup on Zoe Saldana is as offensive as the effort to make this size 2 stunner appear plump is stupid; Saldana is no better, barely approximating Simone's speaking voice, completely missing her singing voice, imbuing her with not a jot of her passion at any point. It's a horrible, amateurish impersonation, resembling Simone no more than it resembles a human being, which is rather little indeed. A catastrophic biopic - surely one of the worst ever made.

OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR ANDRZEJ ZULAWSKI'S COSMOS


Here's the trailer for Andrzej Zulawski's Cosmos, and it's as wondrously bizarre as one would hope for. A prize-winner upon premiering last Summer at the Locarno International Film Festival, it finally arrives in US screens on the 17th of June. Be sure to catch it, since it is the final film from this maverick filmmaker - Zulawski died on the 17th of February.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

REVIEW - LAND OF MINE (MARTIN ZANDVLIET)


The allure of prestige picture status hampers so many international mid-budget productions, predominantly those of a historical nature. Martin Zandvliet's Land of Mine is one such production - modestly mounted, helmed with sense and sensitivity, but hindered by adherence to commercial tropes and bland stylistic choices. And it's regrettably unambitious too, identifying the virtue of its story in its very existence, rather than examining it with any discernible insight. Alas, Zandvliet isn't entirely incorrect in this assumption: Land of Mine's unfamiliar but true, dramatically rich story of young German POWs forced to sweep the Danish coast for Nazi landmines shortly after WWII is a compelling one, and deserving of respect and some level of accuracy in its treatment. This it is provided by Zandvliet's gentle, measured approach, but if there's any point to the film it is made early and often, with no development beyond the obvious. Indeed, Land of Mine traces wretchedly obvious narrative lines from beginning to end, thus signposting each of the supposedly shocking events that occur and nullifying their emotional impact. Yet average filmmaking reaps some rewards, getting as much right as its gets wrong. Performances are shoehorned into melodramatic conflicts and resolutions, but are uniformly capable; period recreation is strong, with an admirably authentic feel to everything but the overcooked grey tint of the cinematography. It's a mistake, but an expected one, in a film where virtually everything is expected; it's one thing this story definitely does not deserve, though - a faded postcard aesthetic, resigning Land of Mine to history. The film itself may suffer a similar fate.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

FINDING DORY: TRAILER #3


Drag SeaWorld! Drag it to the bottom of the ocean and let it drown! Much as I, unlike many, do not consider Finding Nemo to be among Pixar Animation Studio's best works, it's nevertheless a lovely adventure movie, so my hopes and expectations are understandably high for the sequel, Finding Dory. Pixar are being their usual irritating selves with the release date strategy, though: out on the 17th of June in the US and on the 29th of July in the UK. Check out the first and second trailers for Finding Dory too.

REVIEW - A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING (TOM TYKWER)


A film, stranded as its lead, in the strange desolation of Dave Eggers' prose, with a mandate to idiosyncrasy. Tom Tykwer soon establishes a rhythm and a tone that fulfill that mandate, as the experienced cinephile might expect of him; and who better than this director to craft a work so fulsome in its design, from material so reticent to assist. Tykwer's films aren't just mere dabblers in the art of emotional architecture, they're devotees of it. Few working filmmakers today examine the influence of our immediate surroundings on our mental state with such depth and with such detail as Tykwer, and A Hologram for the King is a consistently interesting, surprising continuation of this artistic obsession. There's a vibrancy to every moment, every movement, that is matched by the tone of the film - buoyant, ebullient, sun-drenched and silly. As per, the bigger the budget, the less the strain on the filmmakers' collective creativity; one rather wishes to feel some sense of resistance in A Hologram for the King, some grit, some flaw in the construction that might better reflect the protagonist's feeling of depressed dislocation. We observe his ennui without ever engaging in it, and the film's odd lack of ambition is uncovered in its inability to approach this topic from another angle, or arguably at all. For something so apparently esoteric in style and content, A Hologram for the King is unusually entertaining, in a very commercial manner, and not unwelcomely so. 'Strange... surprising... odd... unusual:' on paper (or on screen), it's literally all of the above. In person, though, this is a most affable, enjoyable film, and all the more surprising for that.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

REVIEW - X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (BRYAN SINGER)


Styled from the syntax of the superhero movie, X-Men: Apocalypse is a dead-weight entry into a franchise whose reputation diminishes as its size expands. Any more expansion and this film would explode - it's blustered bloat from first to last, too much CGI, too many characters, too much bombast and portent, too much of everything. The old X-Men movies cared about their characters; Apocalypse cares only for their plot-pushing potential. The old movies cared about place, location, spatial dynamics; Apocalypse cares only for monolithic digital extravaganzas, soulless, gargantuan creations of derivative imaginations. The old movies employed silence not as an accent to the action but for its own virtues; Apocalypse is brash, noisy, sound and fury signifying, alas, nothing. Bryan Singer is getting progressively worse at making his X-Men films genuinely meaningful, and ever less sensitive as to the broader implications their barely-surviving subtext might possess. The film is a stylistic nightmare, and a conceptual one too, but does it succeed on its own terms, as entertainment? Sad that a franchise that once challenged the mindlessness of its genre has now succumbed to it, but this film is at least serviceable in this regard. It has moments of menace, and of levity, the latter largely attributable to Evan Peters, who's underused here but far from alone in this respect. So much happens, or merely seems to happen, that none of the film's finer qualities are granted the time and energy to properly develop, though a number of effective action sequences are nonetheless enjoyable. That this is what the X-Men films have come to may have been inevitable, if they were to survive in this era of mega-franchises, but it's no less disappointing for that fact.

Monday, 23 May 2016

REVIEW - THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY (ANDREW ROSSI)


And filmmakers think they have it hard. A glitzy gathering of the world's most beloved purveyors of plastic surgery may not seem the ideal arena in which to push the point that fashion is (or can be) art. The naysayers would likely take one look at the Met Gala and scoff, again, but Andrew Rossi takes a closer look, and confirms it for those who were so foolishly undecided: of course it's art. And of course The First Monday in May is art too, whether or not it knows it - it's plain and unambitious in its artistic impulses, but it's art all the same. A deeper, fuller, more probing approach toward developing a synergy between the efforts on display in the film and those behind the scenes in Rossi's camp might have engendered a worthier, more profound examination of its subject. As it is, The First Monday in May is enjoyable, engaging, gently thought-provoking and less gently ravishing to behold. The Costume Institute Gala is a tribute to the clothes; a flurry of photographs plastered online once a year achieves the same effect, so Rossi alters his focus, making his film a tribute to the work that goes into the gala. It's potentially the least clothing-orientated film about fashion ever made. It's far from bereft of glamour, though, and if you find yourself living for the production design, you'll find yourself dying for the fashion. And those who don't, those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge this art form for what it is, may join in a game of comparison: Guo Pei's 2-years-in-the-making piece for Rihanna, or whatever scrubs you're currently sporting. You bet fashion is art.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

I, DANIEL BLAKE SHOCKS TO WIN A SECOND PALME D'OR FOR KEN LOACH


And, with that, the best chance in over 20 years of a woman winning the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival just died. Maren Ade's universally acclaimed Toni Erdmann had already won the FIPRESCI Prize and was the overwhelming favourite to win the whole shebang; a pre-ceremony rumour suggested that jury president George Miller hadn't liked the German director's comedy, however, and that it might go home empty-handed... as indeed it did. Instead, the Palme went to Ken Loach for his film I, Daniel Blake, permitting Loach to join the esteemed ranks of the few directors to have won two Palmes, after his win ten years ago for The Wind That Shakes the Barley. And there were plenty more surprises among the awards this evening, as you can see below:

Palme d'Or
I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)

Grand Prix
It's Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan)

Prix du Jury
American Honey (Andrea Arnold)

Prix de la Mise-en-Scene
Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper)
Cristian Mungiu (Graduation)

Prix d'Interpretation Feminine
Jaclyn Jose (Ma' Rosa)

Prix d'Interpretation Masculine
Shahab Hosseini (The Salesman)

Prix du Scenario
Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman)

Camera d'Or
Divines (Houda Benyamina)

Short Film Palme d'Or
Timecode (Juanjo Gimenez)

Short Film Special Mention
The Girl Who Danced with the Devil (Joao Paulo Miranda Maria)

Palme d'Honneur
Jean-Pierre Leaud

CANNES 2016: FINAL PREDICTIONS INCLUDE TONI ERDMANN FOR THE PALME


21 films in, and with all other awards now distributed (except the Camera d'Or, which will take place during tonight's Ceremonie de Cloture), film fans will spend today pondering and predicting as to the fate of the films in Cannes 2016's Official Competition. Despite some major duds in the lineup, and a general slackening in quality toward the festival's end, the consensus seems to be that this year's batch was a vintage one (just don't ask Peter Travers...). Below, a brief analysis of how SOS thinks the awards could go down, as well as some highly tentative predictions.


Palme d'Or
Naturally, one must expect the best-reviewed film of the festival to stand the best shot at winning its top award, and what better than the best-reviewed film of any Cannes Film Festival in recent years? For once, a female-directed film - the likes of which are generally rare in Official Comp - leads the way, with Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann claiming a record high on Screen Daily's 2016 Jury Grid. Whether or not George Miller's nine-strong festival jury will agree is impossible to say, but it's rightly regarded as being at the front of the queue by most onlookers.
Prediction: Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
Runners-Up: 2Elle (Paul Verhoeven) / 3) Paterson (Jim Jarmusch) / 4) Graduation (Cristian Mungiu) / 5) Aquarius (Kleber Mendonca Filho)


Grand Prix
The obvious choice for Cannes' second place award would surely be the film one predicts as second-most-likely to win the Palme, right? But the awards work differently from that, and beyond the Palme, the jury may opt to place some of their other favourite films in individual achievement categories. I consider Cristian Mungiu's Graduation a safe choice for a top award, given that it's a relatively soft contender in some of the other categories.
Prediction: Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)


Prix du Jury
The wider film community seems to be in agreement: Aquarius' Sonia Braga is the favourite to win the Female Performance award. Despite her status, and the reported standard of her work in the film, that's a hotly contested category this year; Aquarius is also strong in the top awards, and could prove a surprise winner of the Palme. I'm not predicting Kleber Mendonca Filho's first Cannes entry to perform that well, but it would do well to win the Jury Prize instead.
Prediction: Aquarius (Kleber Mendonca Filho)


Prix de la Mise-en-Scene
Cannes' Best Director award can often poach some of the more challenging, auteuristic films from the top award categories. These tend to be among the festival's most divisive, stylised offerings. It's reasonable to predict Paul Verhoeven's Elle to win something this evening, and my bet is that it'll take this award: the clearest shot it has at a win. Verhoeven's an icon by this stage in his career, and would be a popular winner in this often-overlooked category.
Prediction: Paul Verhoeven (Elle)
Runners-Up: 2) Jim Jarmusch (Paterson) / 3) Nicolas Winding Refn (The Neon Demon) / 4) Cristian Mungiu (Graduation) / 5) Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper)


Prix d'Interpretation Feminine
This is the award, outside of the Palme d'Or, that's got everyone talking. Countless contenders for the Female Performance award, with so many viable winners that a top five, as listed here, doesn't even begin to cover the possibilities. There are the consensus choices, like the aforementioned Sonia Braga, Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper and Isabelle Huppert, vying for a record third win in this category for Elle. But those are all far safer swings, and I want my official predictions to reflect the surprising nature that the official jury awards often take at Cannes. I pick Sasha Lane's star-making turn in a film I feel sure will win something tonight, American Honey.
Prediction: Sasha Lane (American Honey)
Runners-Up: 2) Sonia Braga (Aquarius) / 3) Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper) / 4) Isabelle Huppert (Elle) / 5) Ruth Negga (Loving)


Prix d'Interpretation Masculine
A much quieter range of possibilities for the Male Performance award this year. As a result, one of the Palme frontrunners takes precedence here, given the lack of challengers. Paterson may be the kind of well-reviewed but gentle pictures that goes home empty-handed, but a win for Adam Driver would be a very popular choice from George Miller's jury, and seems a likely one too.
Prediction: Adam Driver (Paterson)
Runners-Up: 2) Peter Simonischek (Toni Erdmann) / 3) Adrian Titieni (Graduation) / 4) Shahab Hosseini (The Salesman) / 5) Babak Karimi (The Salesman)


Prix du Scenario
Usually considered the lowliest of the main prizes at Cannes, the Screenplay award is nevertheless a prestigious accolade in its own right. It's often awarded to serious, dialogue-heavy, morally-complex dramas, the likes of which tend to be fairly common at the festival. This would obviously put both of this selection's Romanian New Wave entries, Graduation, and the first film to screen, Sieranevada at the top of the list. Given that Graduation has an award under its belt already, I'll plump for Sieranevada here.
Prediction: Cristi Puiu (Sieranevada)
Runners-Up: 2) Cristian Mungiu (Graduation) / 3) Jim Jarmusch (Paterson) / 4) Andrea Arnold (American Honey) / 5) Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman)


Camera d'Or
Pulling from across Cannes' entire selection, though with no entries this year in the Official Competition, the Camera d'Or is awarded to the best first feature-length film at the festival. As ever, there are many good choices for the award this year, with a couple of animated titles surely in strong contention. My prediction is The Red Turtle, famously the final film with input from Studio Ghibli, not least given that it has thus far failed to win the top awards from either FIPRESCI or the Un Certain Regard jury, despite my prediction that it was first in line for both.
Prediction: The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit)
Runners-Up: 2) My Life as a Courgette (Claude Barras) / 3) Wolf and Sheep (Shahrbanoo Sadat) / 4) Raw (Julia Ducournau) / 5) Mercenary (Sacha Wolff)

Saturday, 21 May 2016

SEBASTIEN LIFSHITZ WINS A (BELATED) QUEER PALM FOR THE LIVES OF THERESE


Goodness only knows what came over Julie Gayet's jury when it rewarded Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways over Sebastien Lifshitz's Les Invisibles for the Cannes Queer Palm four years ago. Rectification from Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, as their jury has overlooked Dolan's It's Only the End of the World - already the surprise winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize anyway - in favour of Lifshitz's sequel-of-sorts to Les Invisibles, The Lives of Therese. Prejudging this decision as a perfect one.

Queer Palm
The Lives of Therese (Sebastien Lifshitz)

Queer Palm for Short Film
Gabber Lover (Anna Cazenave-Cambet)

ECUMENICAL JURY SURPRISES AT CANNES 2016, SIDES WITH DOLAN


It's not the end of the world, exactly, but not that anyone would think it so, unlike Xavier Dolan: he seemed to think it might have been after critics savaged his Cannes competition entry It's Only the End of the World. It's one of the main comp's worst-reviewed titles this year, and easily its worst-reviewed to have been the subject of some considerable defence, not least by its filmmaker. But Cannes' Ecumenical Jury seems to support the Canadian Dolan, rewarding him with their first place citation for this year's whole festival. See what else they chose to recognise - some typically left-field choices from the ecumenical jury - below:

Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
It's Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan)

Special Commendations
American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)

THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI WINS UN CERTAIN REGARD 2016


Marthe Keller's Un Certain Regard jury has rung in with its choices for the best in that selection at Cannes this year. Black-and-white Finnish film The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki made good on its critical acclaim by garnering the top prize, with all five recognised films having impressed critics over the past week-and-a-half. In what was a lineup of mostly lesser-known filmmakers, all of today's award winners ought to receive a welcome boost to their career prospects with these prestigious wins. Check it all out below:

Prix Un Certain Regard
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Juho Kuosmanen)

Prix du Jury
Harmonium (Fukada Koji)

Prix Special du Jury
The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit)

Prix de la Mise-en-Scene
Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic)

Prix du Scenario
Delphine Coulin and Muriel Coulin (The Stopover)

CINEMA NOVO WINS CANNES' SECOND EVER L'OEIL D'OR


L'Oeil d'Or, a new prize at Cannes that originated at last year's festival, has been handed out. The award goes to the best new documentary screening in any section of Cannes. This year's choice is Eryk Rocha's Cinema Novo, which was one of the few contemporary titles in Cannes Classics. It profiles the work of some of Latin America's most important an influential filmmakers, and thus marks the second time - out of two - that a film from South America has received this award. What a fantastic way to celebrate this often underrepresented region for filmmaking, in a year that has also attracted considerable acclaim for fellow South American titles Neruda and Aquarius. There was a Special Mention for the highly-praised The Cinema Travellers, also from Cannes Classics and also a film about the medium itself, from debut directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya.

CANNES 2016 FIPRESCI PRIZE WINNERS ANNOUNCED!


The eternal arbiter of artistic excellence at festivals internationally, FIPRESCI, has revealed the three films to earn its prestigious prizes from Cannes 2016. As expected, Maren Ade's universally-acclaimed (and Screen Daily Jury Grid record-breaker) Toni Erdmann wins in the Official Competition section. There was another female director, from Critics' Week, among the award recipients, and a surprising choice for the jury's Un Certain Regard pick. Take a look:

FIPRESCI Prize for Official Competition
Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)

FIPRESCI Prize for Un Certain Regard
Dogs (Bogdan Mirica)

FIPRESCI Prize for Critics' Week / Directors' Fortnight
Raw (Julia Ducournau)

CANNES 2016: DAY TEN - ELLE


A quick one this. To conclude SOS long-distance report on the performances of the Cannes competition titles this year, here are some notices for Paul Verhoeven's Elle. The final film to screen for critics has closed the festival in fine form, with a surprisingly unbroken line of positive write-ups on the rape revenge film starring Isabelle Huppert. It sure shakes up the competition, and right at the last minute!

Elle enters the Palme Poll with a lofty placement indeed, and looks like a safe bet for several awards, not just one of the top three.

With the announcement of the FIPRESCI prizes, the Critics' Week and Directors' Fortnight polls are now closed. Select titles in these categories remain eligible for the Camera d'Or, l'Oeil d'Or and the Queer Palm, however. The UCR poll will stay open until that section's awards are announced.

OR SINAI'S ANNA WINS CANNES 2016 CINEFONDATION FIRST PRIZE


The Cinefondation award at Cannes is a pretty cool one to win: a €15,000 prize plus a guarantee that the winning director's first film will receive a screening in Cannes' official selection, once made. So congratulations to Or Sinai, the female director and editor (so many female winners at the festival this year so far, promisingly!) whose student feature Anna has won the 2016 Cinefondation top prize. Kawase Naomi, herself a former recipient of the award and a current mainstay on the Croisette, headed up the jury. Check out all their choices below:

First Prize
Anna (Or Sinai)

Second Prize
In the Hills (Hamid Ahmadi)

Third Prize
La Culpa, Probablemente (Michael Labarca)
The Noise of Licking (Nadja Andrasev)

INTERNATIONAL TRAILER #2 FOR GHOSTBUSTERS


Just a little notice: SOS is 100% behind Paul Feig's Ghostbusters, and rly cba with any of you who aren't. Out in North America and the British Isles alike on the 15th of July.

REVIEW - EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (RICHARD LINKLATER)


...but not everybody gets some. I can forgive Richard Linklater his solipsism, but I can't forget it, least of all when I'm actually being confronted with it. Everybody Wants Some!! is a portrait of life for those who are used to getting some of whatever they seek, insight into a culture that is characterised by its own lack of insight. It's easy, thus, to understand Linklater's insensitivity, if not excuse it, despite the intelligence that permeates almost every other aspect of his filmmaking. The film probes male identity in how it is developed and how it manifests itself, celebrating its virtues and explaining its defects. Linklater hits every last target, producing a film that is tonally and intellectually secure, but only on its own terms; hitting every target is simple stuff when they're this close to hand. In a broader cultural context, this is pathetic, pandering material. This thoughtful filmmaker is better than his uglier urges, proving his rightly famed empathy and astuteness in scenes that expand the purview of Everybody Wants Some!! to largely flattering effect. The craft of this film is infinitely stronger than the concept: for every clunker of a line, there's a dozen classics; for every dozen stinkers of storylines, there's a mere one or two fully successful ones. Even the film's greatest attribute - its outstanding surfeit of homoerotic eye candy - seems only an accident, as its ogling eye upon the female figure sinks Everybody Wants Some!! to even deeper depths. If this is what is meant by 'getting some', then I'm getting out.

CANNES 2016: DAY NINE - THE LAST FACE, THE SALESMAN


The Cannes Film Festival is winding down in its final days - yesterday saw the first of its four major strands, the Critics' Week, declare its award winners, and today saw the second, Directors' Fortnight, follow suit. And we now have confirmation that all films from all strands have been seen, though not all reviewed. In a year that started out strong, it has turned into one of the most unbalanced Cannes selections in a long time, with films setting record highs and record lows on Screen Daily's Jury Grid. The record low belongs to the first of today's competition titles, Sean Penn's The Last Face - literally not a positive report to be found on this one, not even one that skews almost-complimentary. Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman was next, though only four reviews exist for the film at time of writing, so expect plenty more to arrive through the night and into tomorrow. Finally, Paul Verhoeven's Elle has reportedly received some sort of screening, but there's no evidence of any articles on it as yet. Stay tuned tomorrow for the verdict.

Naturally, The Last Face robs From the Land of the Moon of its bottom place on the Palme Poll. The word is still out on The Salesman - good but not great seems to be what some are saying, so it assumes a tentative position around the midway point on the poll.

It was a day of wrapping things up in Cannes' lower sections. Un Certain Regard showed its closing film, prior to its official awards ceremony tomorrow. Francisco Marquez and Andrea Testa's The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis brought in middling responses from critics. On the day of its own awards ceremony, Directors' Fortnight closer Dog Eat Dog by Paul Schrader, which didn't win anything ftr, premiered to a mixed reaction, with equal parts gleeful admiration and derision for his crime thriller. And the day after its awards ceremony, we finally received word on Critics' Week title A Yellow Bird by K. Rajagopal. The one review to surface for the Singaporean film was also only mildly positive, though not unpromising.

With the joint Critics' Week / Directors' Fortnight FIPRESCI Prize still to be decided upon, their respective polls remain open, though neither A Yellow Bird nor Dog Eat Dog register especially impressive performances. Ditto Francisco Sanctis in Un Certain Regard.

Official Competition
The Last Face (Sean Penn)
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)

Un Certain Regard
The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis (Francisco Marquez and Andrea Testa)

Critics' Week
A Yellow Bird (K. Rajagopal)

Directors' Fortnight
Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader)

Friday, 20 May 2016

PATERSON'S NELLIE WINS PALM DOG 2016


Condogulations are in order as the most prestigious award has been handed out at Cannes. The festival's top honour, the Palm Dog, has gone to Nellie, the English bulldog who plays Marvin in Jim Jarmusch's Paterson, one of the favourites to win the Palme d'Or this year. Nellie makes history in the category, becoming the first dog to receive this award posthumously - tragically, she passed away a couple of months ago. See what the esteemed jury chose for their full slate of award winners below.

Palm Dog
Nellie (Paterson)

Jury Prize
Jacques (In Bed with Victoria)

Palm Dogmanitarian
Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake)

CANNES DIRECTORS' FORTNIGHT AWARDS 2016


Although technically a non-competitive section of the Cannes Film Festival, the Directors' Fortnight nevertheless hosts its own selection of awards each year. For 2016's roster, they've split the three feature film awards four ways, including a Special Mention, and the sole short film award two ways, also with a Special Mention. The top award was presented to female Afghani director Shahrbanoo Sadat for only her second feature-length work Wolf and Sheep. Indeed, of the seven recognised filmmakers here, four were women. As with the Critics' Week awards yesterday, I'll keep the Directors' Fortnight poll open on the sidebar for the purpose of forecasting the result of the FIPRESCI prize. Check out all the Quinzaine winners below.

Art Cinema Award
Wolf and Sheep (Shahrbanoo Sadat)

Europa Cinemas Label for European Film
Mercenary (Sacha Wolff)

SACD Award for French-Language Film
The Together Project (Solveig Anspach)

SACD Special Mention
Divines (Houda Benyamina)

Illy Prize for Short Film
Chasse Royal (Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret)

Illy Prize Special Mention
The Beast (Miroslav Sikavica)

REVIEW - MUSTANG (DENIZ GAMZE ERGUVEN)


Withstanding and overcoming in Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven's pretty little whirlwind of a film. It's a picture of pastel tones and shimmering sunlight, such that its coarser details might rupture the fabric all the more devastatingly; similarly, its protagonists are as slender and as lithe as they are young and innocent, such that that coarseness might make the same mark upon them. Erguven sacrifices innovation for honesty, but, in her twin virtues of insight and empathy, creates something close to genuine innovation: a portrait of people that is frank and unambiguous yet never straightforward nor simplistic. It never even courts such qualities until the closing sequences, though their more urgent tenor is thoroughly earnt, and supplies Mustang with a jolt of dramatic drive that helps give the film a sense of shape and purpose. Alas, that flighty flippancy is concurrently lost, thus perhaps betraying the sense of shape that it arguably had in largely not having one at all. Mustang is no dreamy, dithery dirge, though - it's shot through with vibrancy and verve, manifesting in myriad ways. There's powerful, palpable anger, then the frustration at its suppression. There's humour, in moments of charming cheek or in scenes of outright silliness. There's buoyancy and uplift, even in times when it's not entirely appropriate - a central theme of this film, the strength of these young women in withstanding and overcoming. Even in its occasionally underwhelming slightness, the result is a most fulfilling joy.

CANNES 2016: DAY EIGHT - GRADUATION, THE NEON DEMON


After two consecutive days of deflation, Cannes 2016 leapt right back into form with two very different films that nevertheless have inspired a very similar level of debate. Cristian Mungiu's Graduation joins fellow Romanian New Wave competition entry Sieranevada by Cristi Puiu in impressing journalists at the festival, inspiring raves from some reviewers. More raves, and more unexpectedly, for Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon, though not without an equal amount of pans - Refn's film drew even heftier booing than Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper did three days ago, with many reported walk-outs and even mid-film heckles at the first press screening.

With reviews like that (and so many of them for a second screening of the day), one could imagine George Miller's jury going either way with The Neon Demon. Not so much with Graduation, which seems on a likelier path toward probable award wins, and thus seems a likelier contender for the Palme. It claims a higher spot on the Palme Poll as a result.

Still no word on the final film to show in Critics' Week, A Yellow Bird by K. Rajagopal, even as that strand officially concludes with its prize-giving ceremony. Never mind, as Un Certain Regard and Directors' Fortnight continue in earnest. UCR gave us two titles today: Juho Kuosmanen's The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, which was well-received by what few critics even saw it, and Stefano Mordini's Pericle, which was met with less enthusiasm. Directors' Fortnight also gave us two: Houda Benyamina's debut Divines, which also wasn't seen by many but was praised regardless, and Laura Poitras' hotly-anticipated Risk, which drew largely good responses, if more muted ones compared to the reception to her previous film, the Oscar-winning Citizenfour.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki's supporters should be happy to know that it stands a good chance of winning some top UCR awards, according to the official SOS poll; not so much for Pericle, which places lower in the rankings. And both Divines and Risk fare well in the Directors' Fortnight rankings. The Critics' Week section remains open until after all awards are announced; A Yellow Bird remains to be reviewed at time of writing, and all Critics' Week and Directors' Fortnight films combined are in contention for a joint FIPRESCI Prize this weekend.

Official Competition
Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)
Variety / The Hollywood Reporter / The Playlist / The Upcoming / Little White Lies / Screen Daily / The Guardian / Cineuropa / The A.V. Club / Film Comment / International Cinephile Society
The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn)
The Wrap / The Telegraph / IndieWire / Little White Lies / Variety / The Playlist / Screen Daily / The Upcoming / The Hollywood Reporter

Un Certain Regard
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Juho Kuosmanen)
The Upcoming / Screen Daily / The Hollywood Reporter
Pericle (Stefano Mordini)
The Hollywood Reporter / Variety / Cineuropa / Screen Daily

Directors' Fortnight
Divines (Uda Benyamina)
The Hollywood Reporter / Variety
Risk (Laura Poitras)
The Hollywood Reporter / Variety / The Telegraph / Cine-Vue / Screen Daily / IndieWire / The Guardian / The Wrap / The Playlist / Film Comment

CANNES 2016 CRITICS' WEEK PRIZES ANNOUNCED


The first awards are in from the Cannes Film Festival. Semaine de la Critique, or Critics' Week, features seven films from new and/or emerging filmmakers, many of whose debut works will compete for the weekend's upcoming Camera d'Or. All but one of these films have been covered in SOS' ongoing Cannes coverage; the lone holdout is A Yellow Bird by K. Rajagopal, for which no reviews have yet been published by major online outlets. Alas, my predicted favourite to win here, Julia Ducournau's Raw, failed to pick up an award, while my predicted least favourite, Mehmet Can Mertoglu's Album, succeeded! I'll keep the Critics' Week Poll still running, since these films will compete against the Directors' Fortnight lineup for a shared FIPRESCI Prize. Keep checking back here at SOS for updates on reviews for A Yellow Bird as the festival continues over the next few days. For now, though, here are the award winners from Critics' Week 2016:

Nespresso Grand Prize
Mimosas (Oliver Laxe)

France 4 Visionary Award
Album (Mehmet Can Mertoglu)

SACD Award
Diamond Island (Davy Chou)

Gan Foundation Award for Distribution
One Week and a Day (Asaph Polonsky)

Leica Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film
Prenjak (Wrejas Bhanuteja)

Canal+ Award for Short Film
Birth of a Leader (Antoine de Bary)