Saturday, 21 February 2015

Ranking The Best Picture Nominations (-American Sniper)

Ranked Oscar Best Picture Nominations

Tomorrow evening will play host to one of the most talked about events on the annual film calendar and mark an end to what seems to have been a very long awards season. This year the Academy chose to nominate 8 films for best picture  out of a possible ten. Here I attempt to rank the 7 I have seen. (I am yet to see American Sniper)

1.    Boyhood (Dir Richard Linklater)

In my mind there is no argument Boyhood is the greatest film on the list. In the film Linklater perfectly encapsulates the spirit of life and he makes a film that speaks to us about basic values of family and love. This may sound like an easy film to make when compared to other films in the race like Birdman or the delicacy that is The Grand Budapest Hotel but in fact the film should be rewarded for the way it keeps its sense of tone and tell a gripping story over its 12 year filming. There is no doubt Boyhood should win best picture.

2.     The Grand Budapest Hotel (Dir Wes Anderson)

I’ll admit I was surprised when The Grand Budapest Hotel started to get the Oscar love that it did. I love the film and placed it at #8 on my top ten last year but I was totally surprised that so many people on the necessary boards liked it so much. If Boyhood wasn’t going to win my next choice would be for The Grand Budapest Hotel its not my favourite Wes Anderson but it is by far his most rich and thoughtful film and it tells a beautiful and sad story about the past and it also reflects on escapism and the escapism of Andersons own movies.  

3.     Whiplash (Dir Damien Chazelle)

Whiplash is utterly brilliant Chazelles direction of the film is simply magnificent it seems strange to believe it’s the work of the first time director but it makes totally sense as the film has so much energy and passion running through it could only have been made by someone just turned 30. The film also features two stunning lead performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons.

4.     Selma (Dir Ava DuVernay)

Selma is wholly deserving of its best picture nomination. Whilst occasionally the direction of the film it’s a bit stilted it is upheld by a electric performance by David  Oyelowo and the film is smart in the way it explores compex ideas about what the best way to lead a campaing is. It is also an important film which deserves to be remembered and a best picture win would help this.

5.     The Theory Of Everything (Dir James Marsh)

I didn’t go into The Theory Of Everything expecting very much and whilst the film still has flaws. It is not the dull lifeless biopic that it could have been and it shows promises of brilliance when it decides to focus on Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Redmayne is utterly deserving of the leading actor award (when considering the nominees, if Ralph Fiennes had been nominated then I would suggest a tie but as he isn’t Redmayne should win) . I think Felicity Jones is also incredible in the  film but I can’s suggest her for best leading actress as sadly I haven’t seen any of the other films in that category.

6.     Birdman (Dir Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Recently its seemed that Birdman might scoop Best Picture after cleaning up at the guild awards. I can’t lie I think it would be a very disappointing victory the film may be enjoyable whilst watching but ultimately it doesn’t leave much to think about after the film and ultimately leaves a pretentious taste in the mouth. Maybe it will win though the majority of the Academy are actors and this is a film about actors and what it means to be an actor so who knows.

7.     The Imitation Game (Dir Morten Tyldum)
      The Imitation Game is what The Theory Of Everything could have been. It’s a dull lifeless biopic, it has no cinematic quality to it (honestly it might as well be a play). Cumberbatch is simply repeating his Sherlock role. Yet worst of all it tacks the fact the Turing killed himself onto a title card on the end credits and even then its placed in white text on the bottom of a positive image of Turing and his friends in happier times. 

      Please leave your comments below as to which film you'd like to win or which film you think should have been nominated. 

  *The picture in the article comes from designer Olly Gibbs you can buy the poster here

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Selma Review

Selma Review

Selma is the film focusing on the three civil rights marches between Selma and Montgomery that took place in 1965 these marches were lead by the infamous Martin Luther King.

Selma is he first major motion picture to focus on Martin Luther King however there is a reason the film is called Selma. This is because most of the films focus is not only on MLK but on everyone involved in the civil rights movement it focuses on their struggle to achieve change yet also to achieve peace. That’s why Selma is such a powerful film it shows us this group of people who go through the absolute worst those in power throw at them yet through all of it these people stay strong. It’s inspiring in its portrayal of the struggles but ultimate triumph of peaceful campaigning. Ava DuVernay has to be praised for the way that her skillful direction manages this throughout the film she focuses the films attention on different people (all based on real life figures) these people aren’t really given names and they aren’t in the film for more than a few minutes at a time yet we start to recognize their faces when they aren’t the focus of the scene and at the end as we watch the final big march and see all of these people for the final time we truly realize how when people come together great things can be accomplished as previously mentioned there is a reason the film is called Selma. That being said David Oyelowo’s performance as Martin Luther King is exceptional. In one of the strongest scenes of the film his is delivering a speech to a crowd and in fact whilst it is not an actual speech of Martin Luther King’s as the rights are held elsewhere. Oyelowo encapsulates King and he delivers the speech with such gusto and skill that it is still inspiring in a cinema seat in Vue Oxford on a Monday evening. The Martin Luther King of the film is very different to how the standard sort of biopic portrayal you may expect . This Luther King is flawed and fascinating we see how even man like King finds his faith tested and is conflicted and impatient yet still strong.

Selma is a powerful film that can occasionally feel a bit slow but the film is often incredible and most importantly attempts to inspire it’s audience which is one of the most important things a film can do. It’s portrayal of Martin Luther King is fascinating look at a flawed and complex man. Ava DuVernay proves herself as a capable director by filling what could be a very standard biopic into a living breathing piece of history, that is angry and has blood running through its veins.

4/5 Stars 

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Theory Of Everything Review

The Theory Of Everything Review

The Theory of Everything tells the story of the life of professor Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) . It’s based on the books written by his ex wife Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) and as such focuses mainly on their relationship together. I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised by the film and it is infinitely better than its award season British science biopic rival The Imitation Game. Yet the film still has some flaws.

The film starts off very slowly  acting as a sort of Stephen Hawking origin story, we see him go to a famous Cambridge laboratory hoping to be inspired, the film plays on the idea of him not knowing what to do with his life yet of course we the audience know what happens. During this part of the film Jane is mainly in the background. If I were to pin point one part of the film that really doesn’t work it would be these opening 40 mins because the run very slowly and offer us no insight into either Stephen or Jane. Yet after this period really starts to pick up. Once Stephen has been diagnosed with ALS the film focuses less on him and more on Jane. It starts to examine how his diagnosis and his increased ego took a toll on his marriage. Hawking is mainly in the background for this part of the film but still looming over Jane as she struggles to cope with this stage of family life. The reason this stands out more than the first section of the film is because it is the part of the film that starts to offer some insight into the life of this very unique family unit. In my opinion the film would have been improved had it simply started with the marriage of Jane and Stephen and continued to follow Jane throughout the story whilst still giving us insight into Stephen yet through the eyes of Jane but also Jonathan the choir director Jane falls for whilst her marriage struggles. The main reason for the success of this part of the film though is the stand out performance from Felicity Jones. Whilst Redmayne has received all of the acclaim for his performance I think that Jones is actually the better of the pair. Don’t get me wrong that acclaim is very much deserved the way he manages to capture Hawking’s facial expression and the way he holds his body throughout the film is fascinating and worthy of praise yet Jones terrifically encapsulates this character who is facing battles between what she wants and what is best for her family whilst also trying to stay on top of everything. Jones also gives us a sense of how Jane feels about being married to a man slowly retreating into his own God complex whilst never saying directly how she feels. Jones plays Wilde with such skill and warmth that again you wish that the film focused on her story more. It’s also in this part of the story that James Marsh’s direction really comes alive, whilst in the opening to the film he employs a sort of point and shoot style as Stephens communication becomes worse and worse Marsh’s visual story telling gets better his composition of shots allows us to infer the status of the drama from the visual images being presented.

The Theory Of Everything is an interesting film that manages to follow a standard biopic path for most of its running time. Yet it still falls occasionally flat and could be improved by changing is perspective whilst still telling the same story.

3.5/5 Stars 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Shaun The Sheep Movie Review

Before this review starts I would like to point out that “Shaun The Sheep Movie” is the correct title no matter how grammatically incorrect it may be.

Shaun The Sheep made his debut in the Wallace and Gromit short “A Close Shave” and has since gone on to have his own spin off TV show. This film is the next step. The film starts like all of the short episodes of the TV series in that it finds Shaun on his familiar farm and its set up is very similar to those episodes. Shaun and his friends are bored with their daily routine and get into mischief in an attempt to get one up on the farmer. However soon things go wrong and Shaun and his flock leave the farm for the more cinematic “Big City”.

It’s in the city the film really starts to come alive: it embodies classic silent comedy as the flock attempt to solve their problems (rescue the farmer and escape the animal warden) but things only get worse. It’s in the city and with this form of silent comedy that Aardman Animation really starts to shine, filling the city with tiny details and sight gags that demand a second viewing - these tiny details really bring the city to life/

Whilst there is no language as such this is very clearly a modern British multicultural city. The film rips along with constant pace and energy flowing from scene to scene tied together by the loose plot and you start to forget how delicately made stop motion films are.

It’s definitely Aardman’s best film of the last ten years however in my opinion it doesn’t quite reach the brilliance of Curse Of The Were Rabbit. It terrifically funny as well the gags keep on coming and there not slight giggles there are constantly big belly laughs.It is also shorter. Yet it proves itself a worthy recent British children’s film like last year’s Paddington.

4/5 Stars 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Inherent Vice Review

Inherent vice isn’t one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. For examples of better films I’d suggest Whiplash, Foxcatcher and Ex Machina. However this year so far I haven’t enjoyed a film as much as I did Inherent Vice.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is an attempt to create a tribute to the time and place of 60’s, 70’s California. It focuses on the idea of the free spirited 60’s turning into the grey Nixon era of the 70’s. The story of the film is centred around Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) a private investigator hired by his ex “Old Lady” Shasta (Katherine Waterstone) to investigate a case involving her lover, the infamous Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts). From there Doc delves into a confusing web of mystery. That’s as simple as the plot can be described because to try and follow it is to fail to truly enjoy the film. You see the point is that Doc is delving into this complex situation which cannot be understood and it’s made even more complex by his continuous marijuana consumption.

To really enjoy the film you should sit back and let it pass by; absorb it and breathe it in, soak in the sense and atmosphere. Anderson’s direction is unique to the spirit of the film: the scenes are strung together like faded memories worn out like sand on a beach by the constant waves of time. Like Anderson’s previous two films, Jonny Greenwood provides the score which enhances the film, adding a sense of intrigue and mystery whilst having a cool relaxing 60s feel. Another strong element of the film is its cast. Phoenix brings real warmth and affection to the part of Doc - we get a sense of how confused he is about being the moral compass of this corrupt world.  Yet in my opinion the best performance in the film comes form Josh Brolin as (Lt. Det.) Christian F. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen. He is consistently the funniest performer in the film whether he is eating a frozen chocolate banana or insulting Doc, yet there is also sadness to his character due to the death of his partner and his fear of the changing times and the free love attitude.

When the film clicks and all the diverse elements come together it really works. For instance there’s a flashback scene which perfectly encapsulates the film, in which Doc is reminded of a incident involving a Ouija board and we see how the past of the 60’s contrasts with the “now” of the 70’s.  However sometimes the film gets slightly carried away with itself and you sense that it could have done with tighter editing while preserving the confusing ambling sense that Anderson wants it to have. I still personally love the film though, its delightful to watch, but when you look beneath its surface there is a real sadness to it and its very touching in the way it portrays this changing point in time and the nature  of memory.

In conclusion Inherent Vice is glorious piece of filmmaking, it entertains even with its sad undercurrent. Whilst I really like the film I can see why it may alienate others with its confusing plot and long running time. If you’re looking for a neat little crime film this isn’t the film for you. 

4.5/5 Stars (But my favourite film of the year so far)