Posts Tagged ‘oscars’

loving-1024.jpg**1/2 (out of five)

Unfortunately writer / director Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special, Mud, Take Shelter) seems so determined to avoid over-dramatising his wonderful source material – the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, whose inter-racial relationship had a profound effect on the United States legal system – that he under-dramatises it to the point of dilution, and, unfortunately, exasperation. His telling is slow and laboured, and, at some points, seemingly deliberately, provocatively obtuse; at one key moment, not only does he not point his camera at the action, he puts it in another State.

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton are fine in the roles (Negga was nominated for the Oscar) but the camera dwells on their quiet moments excessively, especially on Edgerton, who sullenly occupies an enormous amount of inactive screen time. There’s only so much one can take staring at a man smoking and staring.

Nick Kroll (in a really surprising dramatic role) and John Bass do their best to liven things up as the two young lawyers taking the Lovings’ case all the way, but, once again, Nichols is miserly with their screentime. Perhaps he was afraid of portraying them in any way as “great white hopes” to the Lovings’ cause, but when their big moments are shown fleetingly and from behind, it all becomes too much. This dramatic true story could have used more than a little more drama.hero_loving_01.jpg

Jim Flanagan and I dissect the crazy 2017 Oscars here on WATCH THIS:

http://players.brightcove.net/4907834187001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5342650882001

Comments welcome! As of this writing, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz have been taken off the Oscars account and will not be present next year (duh!) Neither seem likely to be fired and the Academy seems unlikely to cut ties with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

With hours before the Oscars, here are some of our skipi.tv reviews and/or discussions of nominated films:

TONI ERDMANN:

http://www.skipi.tv/toni/

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA:

http://www.skipi.tv/mbts/

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC:

http://www.skipi.tv/cptftstc/

JACKIE with Paul Byrnes:

http://www.skipi.tv/jackie/

HELL OR HIGH WATER with Paul Byrnes:

http://www.skipi.tv/hohwr17/

LA LA LAND with Paul Byrnes:

http://www.skipi.tv/lllr/

HIDDEN FIGURES with Miriam Capper:

http://www.skipi.tv/wtep10/

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**** (out of five)

You’d need to have a cold stone heart – or, I suppose, prejudicially racialist views – to dislike Hidden Figures, the true story of black women working as “computers” at NASA in the 1960s. It’s a wonderful, rather incredible story, full of triumphant moments and performed by a perfect cast.

Yes, these highly talented mathematicians were called “computers” – before we called machines computers – because they made computations, in the same way accountants account and actors act. Not all of the details of the story are this revealingly accurate – the white characters, for example, are all composites of real people – but the astounding and goosebump-inducing achievements made by the three central characters are all historically cOrr ect and profoundly inspiring.

Empire’s Taraji P. Henson plays the central character, Katherine G. Johnson, a bona-fide math prodigy-genius who rose to essential prominence during the “space race” and beyond. She’s terrific, and more than ably supported by Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson, both of whom also delivered major damage to ceilings for black people and women within this bastion of astronomical ambition.

Theodore Melfi directs unobtrusively, letting the story and performers shine, but admirably restrains from underlining, and thus undermining, the story’s Big Moments. Like its fellow nominee for Best Picture at the Oscars, Lion, this is the tasteful version of a story that could have been ruined by a heavy hand, a bombastic score or too many studio notes. The true story is monumental enough.

sunny_pawar_as_saroo_bierley_in_the_film_22lion22_2

**** (out of five)

The storytelling in Lion is a triumph of taste over temptation. The source material, the non-fiction 2014 book by Saroo Brierley A Long Way Home, was ripe for bombastic, sensational, sentimental treatment. Instead, director Garth Davis and screenwriter Luke Davies have delivered the tasteful version, one that avoids practically all the story’s potential landmines in lieu of honest emotion. It is a film of great integrity.

Brierley was brought up in Tasmania having been adopted from Calcutta at around five years old. He had been separated from his birth family in bizarre, practically tragicomic circumstances; twenty-five years later, he used Google Earth to attempt to find them again.

The film is structured in two halves. The first – and most successful – follows Saroo, at age five, in India. Saroo is played by Sunny Pawar, who is one of those kids – found after a massive casting process in India – who just nails it. He’s incredible, traversing a mostly dialogue-free hour without missing a single beat. Every shot he’s in contains emotional truth and credibility, but – like all great actors! – there’s a second, underlying layer going on, in which he deftly adds degrees of comic grace. It’s astonishing. There is one wordless close-up that took my breath away, before I practically started chanting, “Give him the Oscar, now!”

The second half sees a grown-up Saroo played by Dev Patel, who easily gives his finest performance to date. He’s completely believable as an Australian-raised Indian born fellow, Aussie accent and all, despite being a Brit. More importantly, the sometimes over-earnestness he’s delivered in many of his roles – the worst examples being in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise – is absent here. He gives a delicate performance of subtlety and grace.

Grace is also the word for the remarkable screenplay, which should definitely be a front-runner for the Adapted Screenplay Oscar come late February. Australian novelist / screenwriter / poet / critic Davies (Candy, Life) skips the expository scenes lesser films would show and rewards our intelligence with unexpected moments that are so much more revealing. Thus the salacious and sensational perils young Saroo faces as an orphan in Calcutta – forced mutilation as part of a begging ring, sexual slavery – are dealt with glancingly, almost quietly, certainly – here’s that word again! – tastefully. In the second half, Saroo forms a relationship with a fellow student, Lucy (Rooney Mara), but Davies spares us any scenes of them flirting, kissing for the first time, falling in bed together; he knows we understand all that stuff, and that it’s not what this story is really about. His screenplay is a monument to narrative elision.

The film comes close to being an instant classic. It’s hampered by two things. The first is almost unavoidable – that the underlying story, and the film’s promotion, have given us the ending in advance, which really does sap the film of suspense. It’s got a lot of elements – especially heart – but suspense isn’t one of them. It must be said, it would have taken an almost superhuman effort of collective restraint on the hands of marketers, producers and media to avoid this.

The second is that the film drops its energy for a long stretch in the second half. There are scenes where Mara’s Lucy – already the least defined character in the script – is, essentially, inaudible (and I was seeing the film in the best possible circumstances, a critic’s screening room), and around her, other members of the cast are allowed to deliver their lines so quietly as to cause one to strain to hear (which affects tremendously Kidman’s big monologue, which also feels – weirdly for a film of such taste – like Oscar-bait). During this section, the storytelling loses specificity. I was honestly but not deliberately confused for a period as to whether Saroo was living in Hobart or Melbourne, for example.

Ultimately though, the film is a triumph. You will weep like a ninny (I did) and it will feel good. I suspect it’s going to be an enormous financial success in Australia, where the Indian sections may sit more comfortably than, say, for a mass-market, mainstream American audience. I also think it has a very good chance of destabilising some of the front-runners at the Oscars. It is a very fine film, and Davis and Davies have proved an exceptional collaboration. See it.

UPDATE: I was spot-on about its Aussie Box Office appeal —

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Mustang_french

***1/2

At this year’s Academy Awards, the race for Best Foreign Language film came down to two horses: Mustang (which neatly fits the metaphor, yeah?) and Son of Saul. It’s completely understandable that the latter won: it’s a rather revolutionary work, which justified re-visiting the holocaust by its bold technique and astonishing integrity. Mustang is not revolutionary, it’s just a very solid and well-constructed film that is eye-opening without being heavy-handed.

Five sisters go to the beach after their final class for the semester. There they play in the water with some boys. It is a sequence of pure beauty and delight: young people enjoying a classic vibe. School’s out, and they are free.

But there’s the rub – because they’re in a Black Sea town in Turkey, not Sydney or Santa Monica, and a local old lady, watching from afar, doesn’t like what she sees. The sisters are orphans, living with their progressive or at least easy-going grandmother, and when the nosy old biddy dobs them in to their uncle, he takes it upon himself to tighten the reins. These beautiful free, somewhat wild horses are going to be broken.

The magic trick of Mustang is that it’s a scathing indictment of traditional patriarchal control in modern Turkey without being at all heavy handed. You’re in for the story and the message comes free. I had no idea this stuff went on in contemporary Turkey; that exposes some ignorance on my part and made the film all the more powerful.

The performances are all terrific but the girls are just sublime. The actresses – the youngest is thirteen – are astonishingly believable as sisters. In the opening, sunny, completely enticing early scenes, when the “mustang” is free, the way the girls move together, through the streets and open spaces of their town, is extraordinary. They flow like a single organism that contracts and expands, exchanging positions, following and leading, their energy seemingly binding them on invisible elastic cords, not so much like a school of fish as an amoeba.

Warren Ellis contributes a score made up of cello, flute and violin that suits the tone of the film perfectly, which is dreamy, soft and fluid, despite the imposing subject matter. It’s the debut feature for writer / director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who made the film for just €1,300,000. We’ll be hearing more from her.

It’s an interesting year. Only one film is a true, ground-breaking masterpiece, but all of the films in the mix are good – very good. Common wisdom seems to suggest that the one that I found least brilliant is going to triumph on the night in the top two categories, but by my reckoning, the best film of the year is going to take home six Oscars – no mean feat for a bonkers action movie that is the third sequel to a crazy little unregulated Ozploitation flick from the late 70s.

Listen to the Podcast version of this stuff here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/movieland/id668507582?mt=2

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Bear Story

Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: World of Tomorrow

SOUND EDITING

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

ORIGINAL SONG

SHOULD WIN: ‘Earned It’ – Fifty Shades of Grey

‘Manta Ray’ – Racing Extinction

‘Simple Song No. 3’ – Youth

WILL WIN: ‘Till it Happens to You’ – The Hunting Ground

‘Writing’s on the Wall’ – Spectre

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Burwell’s score for Carol is perfect. But Morricone is old, the maestro of western scores, and only has an “honorary” Oscar.

Thomas Newman – Bridge of Spies

SHOULD WIN: Carter Burwell – Carol

WILL WIN: Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

Johann Johannsson – Sicario

John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

VISUAL EFFECTS

This will be where Star Wars gets one – or will Mad Max: Fury Road get this too?

Ex Machina

SHOULD WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

WILL WIN: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

COSTUME DESIGN

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

FILM EDITING

If The Big Short wins here, then the whole night may go a different way. But until that happens:

The Big Short

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: The Revenant

Sicario

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The best category of the night. All deserve the award. What a year for adaptations!

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay – The Big Short

Nick Hornby – Brooklyn

Phyllis Nagy – Carol

Drew Goddard – The Martian

Emma Donoghue – Room

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

It would be deeply embarrassing if the academy voters tried to “give one to black artists” in this year of The Diversity Oscars, only to see the white authors of Straight Outta Compton ascend the stage. Awkward!

Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen – Bridge of Spies

Alex Garland – Ex Machina

Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauce, and Josh Cooley – Inside Out

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff – Straight Outta Compton

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Alicia Vikanda plays a leading role in The Danish Girl and should have been nominated in the Lead Actress category – or at least submitted for it. She should not win a supporting Oscar, but she will.

SHOULD WIN: Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara – Carol

Rachel McAdams – Spotlight

WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Again, there were better supporting performances this year – including John Cusack, for example, in Love and Mercy. Tom Hardy would deserve it, but Sly will get it.

Christian Bale – The Big Short

SHOULD WIN: Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone – Creed

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Really, the Best Actor of 2015 was Paul Dano in Love and Mercy, and he’s not nominated. Fassbender is the best of a very misguided, incomplete list. But it’s “Leo’s year,” right?

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo

Matt Damon – The Martian

WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

SHOULD WIN: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Saoirse Ronan made Brooklyn work in an old-fashioned star vehicle but Brie Larson made you believe she was the mother of that kid – plus everything else.

Cate Blanchett – Carol

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Brie Larson – Room

Jennifer Lawrence – Joy

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Amy

Cartel Land

The Look Of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

SHOULD WIN: Anamolisa 

Boy and the World

WILL WIN: Inside Out

Shaun The Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Colombia – Embrace of the Serpent

France – Mustang

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Hungary – Son of Saul

Jordan – Theeb

Denmar – A War

DIRECTING

Up until the Director’s Guild Awards, I thought George Miller was going to win here. Now I think the DGA winner will, giving him two in a row (he won this category last year for Birdman).

Adam McKay – The Big Short

SHOULD WIN: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

WILL WIN: Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant

Lenny Abramson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

BEST FILM

My opinions here have been previously expressed and haven’t changed. The Revenant is gorgeous, but Mad Max: Fury Road is a game-changing cinematic masterpiece.

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

SHOULD WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

WILL WIN: The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Enjoy the Oscars folks!