Wednesday, 30 November 2016

CAHIERS DU CINEMA CROWNS TONI ERDMANN THE BEST FILM OF 2016


The leak was correct! Cahiers du Cinema, that most prestigious of centres of film criticism, has unveiled its choices for its ever-anticipated year-end poll, and they're precisely as yesterday's leaked list suggested. It looks like failing to win over George Miller's Cannes jury might have been the best thing to happen to Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, as it can add first place on this poll to its already-hefty roster of accolades, including a FIPRESCI Grand Prix. Indeed, the entire top seven here is comprised of Cannes competition entries, not one of which claimed a jury award at the festival in May. Check it all out below, and, if you haven't seen any (or even some) of the films in this top ten, make sure to check them out too!

1. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
2. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
3. The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn)
4. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonca Filho)
5. Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont)
6. Julieta (Pedro Almodovar)
7. Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie)
8. La Loi de la Jungle (Antonin Peretjatko)
9. Carol (Todd Haynes)
10. The Woods Dreams Are Made Of (Claire Simon)

REVIEW - LOVING (JEFF NICHOLS)


Such a gentle story of such a ferocious fight. Alas, one can hardly help but feel that Jeff Nichols settles too comfortably into a particular groove with Loving, one of unmannered restraint and unforced empathy. Largely removed from the courtroom bluster that defines most dramas about momentous legal battles, the film is instead a portrait of the ordinary love of the ordinary folk engaging in this most extraordinary case, and for ordinary reasons. That's potent, but entirely plain in Loving, and the warm calm with which Nichols paints this portrait never even threatens to ignite into the kind of blaze, if only a temporary one, that surely must have burnt beneath this struggle. The roles of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple whose Supreme Court case struck down anti-miscegenation laws throughout the U.S., are inhabited by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga with simple grace; Negga is particularly unpretentious in her refusal to relent to easy characterization. It's a trait that she shares with her writer-director, though one may yearn, on his part, for some more of the verve that he has displayed in previous films - even inferior ones - and which all too infrequently emerges in Loving. Nichols' earnest, unassuming picture of rural life in America's South possesses a beautiful, genuine palpability in its authentic accents and in Adam Stone's cinematography, but little of the artistic nor conceptual purpose that might bolster its political purpose, itself already understated. This film might claim to know the Lovings, but its knowledge exceeds its understanding; in merely showing, rather than co-opting, their boldness, it eventually does them a minor disservice.

REVIEW - A UNITED KINGDOM (AMMA ASANTE)


A stultifying loveliness lingers over Amma Asante's A United Kingdom, one of those inspiring historical true stories whose hagiographic tendencies bring out the laziest in their directors. A shame that Guy Hibbert's dialogue is so mundane, since both he and Asante demonstrate an impressive awareness of the essential interchange between the personal and the political amongst those who cannot evade it. It's a trait that simmers through A United Kingdom, though precisely when one anticipates it boiling over, Asante's penchant for stylistic prosaicism keeps the film's potential passions in check. It's less that she wishes to maintain a sense of balanced, non-judgemental objectivity, more that she genuinely seems to trust in the techniques of the most modest of filmmakers, those whose workmanlike, adaptable styles have made them ever safe fits for similar middlebrow period pieces and TV movies. Even the film's necessary dips into darkness are shrouded by gentility and brushed off in the pursuit of hope. A United Kingdom is thus an obstinately lovely film, but there are less attractive attributes to which to aspire than loveliness. It makes for a pleasant accompaniment throughout, whether in the vibrant, committed performances or in the smart period recreation and overall aesthetic scheme. As such, there are far worse films to which you could bring your granny to than A United Kingdom, but sometimes, don't you just wish you could leave granny at home?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

NBR KICK-STARTS 2016-17 AWARDS SEASON PROPER: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA WINS


I hope you're ready I don't give a shit, I just hope I'm ready for awards season! Sure, it's sort of already begun, but with the announcement of the National Board of Reviews' faves in film for 2016, we can now confirm that it's under way. Critics groups will come chiming in thick and fast for the next three weeks or so, before the Christmas break will precede the glut of the industry nominations and awards over January and February. Keep checking SOS for all the updates, including the upcoming official SOS Critics' Tally on the left sidebar. For now, it's Manchester by the Sea in the lead, as it wins NBR's top award. Check out all their picks below:

Best Film
Manchester by the Sea
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hail, Caesar!
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Moonlight
Patriot's Day
Silence
Sully

Best Director
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Best Actress
Amy Adams (Arrival)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Supporting Actress
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Best Supporting Actor
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Best Original Screenplay
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese (Silence)

Best Ensemble
Hidden Figures

Best Animated Feature
Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Documentary
O.J.: Made in America
de Palma
The Eagle Huntress
Gleason
Life, Animated
Miss Sharon Jones!

Best Foreign Language Film
The Salesman
Elle
The Handmaiden
Julieta
Land of Mine
Neruda

Best Independent Film
20th Century Women
Captain Fantastic
Creative Control
Eye in the Sky
The Fits
Green Room
Hello, My Name Is Doris
Krisha
Morris from America
Sing Street

Best Directorial Debut
Trey Edward Shults (Krisha)

Best Breakthrough Performance (Female)
Royalty Hightower (The Fits)

Best Breakthrough Performance (Male)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

NBR Freedom of Expression Award
Cameraperson

Spotlight Award
Peter Berg / Mark Wahlberg

2016 SATELLITE AWARD NOMINATIONS: LOL LOL LAND


I defy anyone who can browse through the nominations for the 2016 Satellite Awards, either at a glance or in immense depth, and find any structure to the ordering of their lists that doesn't immediately imply 'ranked order.' No rly, these are in order of preference. It's hilarious. They're not the only 'critics' group to make this mistake, but since their taste in film is already fairly atrocious, it's reasonable to expect their grasp of formatting to match it. These guys are so on the ball that their awards ceremony, scheduled for February, doesn't even have a confirmed date yet. Just February. This is classic, truly classic.

Best Motion Picture
La La Land
Moonlight
Manchester by the Sea
Lion
Jackie
Hacksaw Ridge
Loving
Hell or High Water
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Hidden Figures
Fences

Best Director
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)
Pablo Larrain (Jackie)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best Actress
Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Joel Edgerton (Loving)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Tom Hanks (Sully)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Eddie Murphy (Mr. Church)
Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Best Screenplay, Original
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)
Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic)
Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster)

Best Screenplay, Adapted
Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan (Hacksaw Ridge)
Luke Davies (Lion)
Kieran Fitzgerald and Oliver Stone (Snowden)
Justin Marks (The Jungle Book)
Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures)
Todd Komarnicki (Sully)

Best Cinematography
John Toll (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk)
Linus Sandgren (La La Land)
James Laxton (Moonlight)
Simon Duggan (Hacksaw Ridge)
Jani-Petteri Passi (The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki)
Bill Pope (The Jungle Book)

Best Film Editing
Tom Cross (La La Land)
Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders (Moonlight)
Tim Squyres (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk)
Alexandre de Francheschi (Lion)
John Gilbert (Hacksaw Ridge)
Steven Rosenblum (The Birth of a Nation)

Best Art Direction and Production Design
David Wasco (La La Land)
Barry Robinson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Jean Rabasse (Jackie)
Christophe Glass (The Jungle Book)
Gary Freeman (Allied)
Dan Hennah (Alice Through the Looking Glass)

Best Costume Design
Colleen Atwood (Alice Through the Looking Glass)
Eimer ni Mhaoldomhnaigh (Love & Friendship)
Courtney Hoffman (Captain Fantastic)
Madeline Fontaine (Jackie)
Mary Zophres (La La Land)
Alexandra Byrne (Doctor Strange)

Best Sound (Editing and Mixing)
La La Land
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Hacksaw Ridge
The Jungle Book
Allied
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Best Visual Effects
The Jungle Book
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Doctor Strange
The BFG
Sully
Deadpool

Best Original Score
Rupert Gregson-Williams (Hacksaw Ridge)
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)
Lesley Barber (Manchester by the Sea)
John Williams (The BFG)
John Debney (The Jungle Book)
Hans Zimmer (Hidden Figures)

Best Original Song
'Audition (The Fools Who Dream)' (La La Land)
'City of Stars' (La La Land)
'Dancing with Your Shadow' (Po)
'Can't Stop the Feeling' (Trolls)
'I'm Still Here' (Miss Sharon Jones!)
'Runnin'' (Hidden Figures)

Best Ensemble
Hidden Figures

Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Zootopia
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
Finding Dory
My Life as a Courgette
The Jungle Book
The Red Turtle
Miss Hokusai
Trolls
Your Name.

Best Motion Picture, Documentary
Gleason
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th
The Ivory Game
The Eagle Huntress
Tower
Fire at Sea
Zero Days
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years

Best Motion Picture, International Film
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki
Toni Erdmann
Julieta
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
The Ardennes
Ma' Rosa
The Handmaiden
Elle
Paradise

Best First Feature
Russudan Glurjidze (House of Others)

Auteur Award
Tom Ford

Humanitarian Award
Patrick Stewart

Mary Pickford Award
Edward James Olmos

Tesla Award
John Toll

REVIEW - ALLIED (ROBERT ZEMECKIS)


You there! Visiting my blog, perusing my appraisals of films of your fancy - you're here for a reason, and that reason has nothing to do with the opinions of Pauline Kael or Andre Bazin or Roger Ebert. It has to do with the opinions of yours truly, and so you'll surely forgive me for putting those opinions first. Those opinions are founded upon tastes, those tastes upon some indistinct, indefinite parts of my psyche over which I have little control. And those tastes favour Robert Zemeckis' Allied, a solid, substantial work of canny craftsmanship that plays immediately into my favours - patient and suspenseful, yet twisty and thrilling. Steven Knight has a marvellous knack for writing screenplays that feel almost minimalist in their lean efficiency and stylistic simplicity, while Zemeckis' own taste for technical trickery enlivens the film without overwhelming it; his respect for classical storytelling techniques a far more apt and valuable attribute in Allied. It's Hitchcock-lite, but then isn't most everything in this genre? And this is a terrific example of adult entertainment (now now, not 'Adult Entertainment') in a modern market that often regards those two terms as mutually exclusive. You see, I have a taste for spy films, especially spy films like Allied. I like their narrative coyness, their aesthetic glamour, their purposeful action sequences - all only when done well, of course, which is largely the case here. And I like it when they're good fun, without necessitating that the viewer checks their brain in at the door. You want my opinion? Allied might just be Robert Zemeckis' best film.

GOTHAM WINS BIG AT 26TH GOTHAM AWARDS


Buzz online has been flitting between Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight as the likely winner of the two big American indie film organizations' 2016 awards. We'll have to wait until February to discover which triumphs (if either) with Film Independent, but we know now that it's the latter that has done so with the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Check out their nominations at this link, and their award winners below:

Best Feature
Moonlight (Dede Gardner, Barry Jenkins, Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski)

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Screenplay
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Best Documentary
O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman, Deirdre Fenton, Nina Krstic, Erin Leyden, Tamara Rosenberg and Caroline Waterlow)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
Trey Edward Shults (Krisha)

Best Breakthrough Actor
Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch)

Audience Award
Moonlight

Special Gotham Jury Award for Ensemble Performance
Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, Andre Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monae, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight)

Gotham Jury Tributes
Amy Adams
Ethan Hawke
Arnon Milchan
Oliver Stone

Monday, 28 November 2016

2016 ANNIE AWARD NOMINATIONS


The DreamWorks contingent strikes again, as Kung Fu Panda 3 sneaks its way into the Best Animated Feature slate for the 2016 Annie Awards. But that underwhelming and underperforming sequel's success is hardly the main story; that, rather, would be the dominance of Kubo and the Two Strings, with its hugely impressive 10 mentions, and Zootopia, whose lead of 11 is more than distributor Disney's cumulative haul for its fellow two top category nominees, Finding Dory and Moana. Annie Award winners will be announced on the 4th of February.

Best Animated Feature
Finding Dory (Pixar Animation Studios)
Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (DreamWorks Animation)
Moana (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Outstanding Achievement: Directing in an Animated Production
Claude Barras (My Life as a Courgette)
Michael Dudok de Wit (The Red Turtle)
Byron Howard and Rich Moore (Zootopia)
Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings)
Shinkai Makoto (Your Name.)

Outstanding Achievement: Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
Jason Bateman (Zootopia)
Auli'i Cravalho (Moana)
Katie Crown (Storks)
Zooey Deschanel (Trolls)
Art Parkinson (Kubo and the Two Strings)

Outstanding Achievement: Writing in an Animated Feature Production
Jared Bush and Phil Johnston (Zootopia)
Chris Butler and Marc Haimes (Kubo and the Two Strings)
Michael Dudok de Wit and Pascale Ferran (The Red Turtle)
Celine Sciamma (My Life as a Courgette)

Outstanding Achievement: Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
Mark Garcia (Kubo and the Two Strings)
Trevor Jimenez (Finding Dory)
Normand Lemay (Moana)
Claire Morrissey (Trolls)
Dean Wellins (Zootopia)

Outstanding Achievement: Editorial in an Animated Feature Production
Jeff Draheim (Moana)
Nazim Meslem (April and the Extraordinary World)
Jeremy Milton and Fabienne Rawley (Zootopia)
Christopher Murrie (Kubo and the Two Strings)
Kevin Pavlovic (Sausage Party)

Outstanding Achievement: Production Design in an Animated Feature Production
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kung Fu Panda 3
The Little Prince
Trolls
Zootopia

Outstanding Achievement: Animated Effects in an Animated Production
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kung Fu Panda 3
Moana
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Outstanding Achievement: Music in an Animated Feature Production
Camille, Richard Harvey and Hans Zimmer (The Little Prince)
Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion and Lolita Ritmanis (Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders)
Alexandre Desplat (The Secret Life of Pets)
Laurent Perez del Mar (The Red Turtle)
Joby Talbot (Sing)

Outstanding Achievement: Character Design in an Animated Feature Production
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana - Heihei, Kakamora, Lalotai Characters (Realm of Monsters), Maui, Moana, Pua and Tamatoa
The Secret Life of Pets
Trolls - Bergens and Trolls
Zootopia - Bellwether, Chief Bogo, Clawhauser, Doug, Finnick, Flash, Fru Fru, Judy Hopps, Koslov, Miscellaneous characters, Mr. Big, Mr. and Mrs. Otterton, Duke Weaselton, Nick Wilde and Yax

Outstanding Achievement: Character Animation in a Feature Production
Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kung Fu Panda 3
Zootopia - Chief Bogo, Bonnie Hopps, Judy Hopps, Stu Hopps and Nick Wilde
Zootopia - Flash, Judy Hopps, Koslov, Mr. Big and Nick Wilde

Best Animated Feature - Independent
Long Way North (2 Minutes, France 3 Cinema, Maybe Movies, Norlum Studios and Sacrebleu Productions)
Miss Hokusai (Production I.G.)
My Life as a Courgette (Blue Spirit Productions, Gebeka Films, KNM and Rita Productions)
The Red Turtle (Studio Ghibli, Why Not Productions and Wild Bunch)
Your Name. (CoMix Wave Films)

Best Animated Short Subject
Blind Vaysha (National Film Board of Canada)
Deer Flower (Studio ZAZAC)
Path Title Sequence (Acme Filmworks)
Pearl (Evil Eye Pictures and Google Spotlight Stories)
Piper (Pixar Animation Studios)

Best Animated Special Production
Audrie & Daisy (Actual Films for Netflix, and AfterImage Public Media)
Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll (DreamWorks Animation)
Little Big Awesome (Amazon Studios and Titmouse, Inc.)
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (CBS Films, J. P. Entertainment and Participant Media)
Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Massive Swerve Studios and Passion Pictures Animation)

Best Student Film
The Abyss (Huang Li Ying)
Citipati (Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg)
FISHWITCH (Adrienne Dowling)
Twiddly Things (Adara Todd)
The Wrong End of the Stick (Terri Matthews)

Outstanding Achievement: Animated Effects in a Live Action Production
The BFG
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
Ghostbusters
Warcraft

Outstanding Achievement: Character Animation in a Live Action Production
Captain America: Civil War - Spider-Man
Game of Thrones (Battle of the Bastards)
The Jungle Book (Peta Bayley, Andrew R. Jones, Benjamin Jones and Gabriele Zucchelli)
The Jungle Book (Andrei Coval, Andrew R. Jones, Paul Story, Eteuati Tema and Dennis Yoo)
Warcraft - Orcs

June Foray Award
Bill Kroyer and Sue Kroyer

Winsor McCay Award
Dale Baer
Caroline Leaf and Oshii Mamoru

UB Iwerks Award
Google Spotlight's virtual reality platform

Certificate of Merit
Leslie Ezah
Gary Perkovac

Special Achievement Award
Life, Animated

REVIEW - GIMME DANGER (JIM JARMUSCH)


If, even by the standards of an American indie film scene defined by those traditions that he himself rewrote, Jim Jarmusch has never been one to knowingly eschew danger, it might seem peculiar that he'd finally abandon it in Gimme Danger, his prosaic portrait of The Stooges. Of all the times to go soft, a profile of this most hard-edged of rock bands would surely strike no-one as the most appropriate. Jarmusch's uncharacteristic directness, and Iggy Pop's clarity and vibrancy as a subject, concordantly maintain an enlightening documentary that supplies insight on a level that few similar docs achieve. And that's valuable, not least in the face of what Jarmusch must sacrifice in return - directness and clarity in a Jim Jarmusch film? ...About The Stooges? Gimme Danger's most potent moments occur when either interviewer or interviewee permits the odd digression or abstraction, and at last we're treated to at least the suggestion of the artistic mastery that such a collaboration promises. 'At last' may be the wrong terminology, though - Gimme Danger expends much of its energy early on, eventually settling into a tiresome slideshow of talking heads and hazy recollections, with Jarmusch's desire to cover the maximum possible ground deflecting most potential opportunities for meaningful commentary, whether on his behalf or on his subjects'. Alas, isn't this too often the case when old men assemble to reminisce upon the past? The result is usually far from dangerous - it's dull.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

2016 PGA DOCUMENTARY NOMINEES ANNOUNCED


The Producers Guild of America is one of those daft institutions that likes to get in there early with its year-end nominations, at least for documentaries. They've overlooked Ava DuVernay's acclaimed 13th, which may be for distribution reasons, or it may be a surprise snub - the PGA is known for that in this category. On the 10th of January, the lists for all films and for animated films will be announced, and the award winners will be revealed for all categories at the ceremony on the 29th of January. Official nominee credits TBA.

Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
Dancer
The Eagle Huntress
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
Tower

Saturday, 26 November 2016

TRAILER #2 FOR DENZEL WASHINGTON'S FENCES


Come and collect your Oscars, Denzel and Viola! Fences comes out in the US on Christmas Day and in the UK on the 10th of February, then wins all the Oscars on the 26th.

Friday, 25 November 2016

REVIEW - THE INNOCENTS (ANNE FONTAINE)


The value of co-operation, adaptation and the fluid, flexible approach to implementing a sincere set of ethical codes in one's life, given soft-spoken form in Anne Fontaine's The Innocents. Fontaine is a mild-mannered director, which makes her perhaps too perfect a fit for the material - it needs a generous helping of verve to offset its tendency toward middlebrow melodrama, when in fact that's precisely what Fontaine facilitates. And yet such a sure, gentle guiding hand yields artistic results whose modesty is a fitting virtue - The Innocents is visually striking, excellently performed, and affectingly empathetic, all with a quietude that necessitates the viewer to engage with the film, rather than the opposite. That's a faithfully effective means of guaranteeing an honest connection with the audience, though it's a connection that this film seems intent upon severing. Having made its points, and made them well, The Innocents proceeds to repeat them over, eventually only diminishing their potency via a combination of repetition and an uncomfortable and unconvincing shoehorning into a prescribed narrative structure. Fontaine, who has, until now, arguably grafted harder than ever before to instil in her work a genuine strain of artistic worth, reverts back to convention, and boy does the film start to drag. It remains a worthwhile watch throughout, however, with its earnest representation of a uniquely female perspective on historical events normally analyzed from the male perspective, and with a predominantly female cast and crew, including riveting work by actors Lou de Laage and Agata Buzek, and sumptuous cinematography by Caroline Champetier.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

REVIEW - BAD SANTA 2 (MARK WATERS)


The line between decency and indecency need not be placed atop the line between political correctness and disrespect. And yet it is, for it's much too much to ask of a lazy, ignorant species as ours to make such progressive, productive distinctions. Thus Bad Santa 2 arrives, 13 years after its predecessor, having learnt a lot yet caring no more. It's one of those 'take-no-prisoners' comedies that never even seeks to point at its heterosexual white male protagonist and demographic, never mind shoot. Whether that's a more forgivable attribute in retrospect, 13 years later, or not is debatable. What, for me, is beyond debate is the shots that hit their target with majestic force and accuracy, when Bad Santa 2 manages to cross the line into indecency whilst keeping at least one foot before the line into disrespect. Mollycoddled snowflakes need not apply, though those among us with a robust sense of social justice need buckle up for some serious cognitive dissonance - the ability to enjoy Bad Santa 2 whilst also disapproving of much of its content. In that Mark Waters' ho-hum direction on an evidently ravaged budget makes this film far from a masterpiece on a fundamental level, that ought not to be too tricky a task, though, provided that one enters funny-bone first. Between the brilliantly deadpan Billy Bob Thornton, the joyously vicious Kathy Bates, and a script that flings in a few astonishing one-liners and never fails to entertain with an impressive barrage of depravity, Bad Santa 2 is positively hilarious, if only in generous bursts. Aptly, it crosses a line between good and bad filmmaking too often to do justice to its own talents, but that they're there at all is the greatest gift for which we'd never asked this holiday season.

OSCAR NOMINATION CONTENDERS FOR LIVE ACTION & ANIMATED SHORT REVEALED


As per convention, each of Oscar's short film categories has been narrowed down to ten contenders on the shortlists for nominations. Alongside the Documentary Short selection, the Academy has now announced its Live Action Short and Animated Short top tens. Two months today, on the 24th of January, the nominations will finally be revealed! Check out both of the new shortlists below.

Best Live Action Short
Bon Voyage (Joel Jent and Marc Wilkins)
Ennemis Interieurs (Selim Azzazi)
La Femme et le TGV (Timo von Gunten)
Graffiti (Lluis Quilez)
Nocturne in Black (Jimmy Keyrouz)
The Rifle, the Jackal, the Wolf and the Boy (Oualid Mouaness)
Silent Nights (Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson)
Sing (Kristof Deak)
Timecode (Juanjo Gimenez)
The Way of Tea (Matthieu Devillers and Marc Fouchard)

Best Animated Short
Blind Vaysha (Theodore Ushev)
Borrowed Time (Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj)
Happy End (Jan Saska)
The Head Vanishes (Franck Dion)
Inner Workings (Sean Lurie and Leo Matsuda)
Once Upon a Line (Alicja Jasina)
Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Cara Speller and Robert Valley)
Pearl (Patrick Osborne)
Piper (Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer)
Under Your Fingers (Ludivine Berthouloux and Marie-Christine Courtes)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

REVIEW - FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (DAVID YATES)


You want fantastic? Good, because you can definitely find it here. David Yates and J. K. Rowling lighten up for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, newly untethered to the demands of a narrative-in-progress, buoyed by the opportunity to riff on material that's so very familiar to them both. If their winsome magic was occasionally all on which the Harry Potter films had to go, it's not necessarily a drawback to note that Fantastic Beasts inevitably loses some such magic in the changes made. What it gains is an equally-agreeable freedom, a looseness in tone and plot in which Rowling appears to delight, and in which Yates follows suit. By now, these two know how to get to where they're going, and so indulge in one cheeky little tangent after another along the route - Fantastic Beasts rollicks from one silly setpiece to the next, and, if anything, it's those scenes which are devoted toward the development of plot that feel like they're intruding. Yates is a fine director of darkness, though, and is once again blessed by the presence of yet another brilliant cinematographer in Philippe Rousselot; as ever, one of the principal joys of these Harry Potter-related pictures is their artistic and technical beauty, and particular, predictable credit must go to the increasingly invaluable Stuart Craig on production design. They bring the fantasy to fantastic life in this uncommonly winning blockbuster, enlivened further by an attractive sense of social conscience and some charming performances. Half a star off for a reproachable twist, for not knowing when to end, and for the single most appalling use of slo-mo 3D in film history.