Tuesday, 10 December 2013
Yesterday, the Online Film Critics Society, a critics group of which I am a proud member, unveiled the nominees for their 17th annual awards. Apart from the lack of love for Frances Ha, which was the film I wanted to see get recognition above pretty much everything else, it's a pretty solid list with a couple of surprises, most notably the Best Picture nomination for Johnnie To's Drug War, a very good film that otherwise hasn't be mentioned much during this awards season.
I'm going to spend the next week frantically trying to watch the films I've not seen yet in time to vote for the winners, which will be announced next Monday.
Sunday, 8 December 2013
In June of 2005, four Navy SEALs were sent out on a mission known as Operation Red Wings. The objective was to kill Ahmad Shah, a local Taliban leader who had been coordinating attacks against U.S. and Afghani government forces. Within hours of being dropped into hostile territory, the team consisting of Marcus Lottrell (Mark Wahlberg), Mike Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster) had been ambushed, and the mission was thrown into disarray. Under heavy fire and with their communications disrupted, the four men had to fight for their lives. As the title of the film suggests, most of them did not survive.
Saturday, 7 December 2013
Between 60,000 and 100,000 people have been killed in the 7 years since the Mexican government under Felipe Calderón declared war on the powerful drug cartels which have increasingly come to dominate parts of the country. It's worth stating that figure up front, if only to stress the sheer enormity of the crisis facing the country, one which goes largely unreported outside of its own borders - or even within them, as evidenced by the dozens of journalists and bloggers who have been forced to flee the country or been killed for reporting on the cartels. Even then, that number doesn't do justice to the millions of people who have been displaced by the swirling violence, or whose families have been irreparably broken by the fighting. It's these kinds of stories that Shaul Schwarz shows in Narco Cultura, his blistering and eye-opening documentary about the war on the ground that offers little hope that the war will end soon or well, but certainly captures the feeling of what it must be like to live amongst the bullets.
Friday, 6 December 2013
From its first scene, in which its title character suffers a beating at the hands of a shadowy, unknown man, Inside Llewyn Davis is a disorientating, darkly funny and quietly menacing experience. Set in and around the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961, it covers a week or so in the life of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a folk singer who is perpetually broke, and spends pretty much the entirety of the film shuffling through the brutal New York winter, trying to bum a cigarette or grab a night's sleep on a couch from anyone he can, all the while hustling to get a few dollars together. As he pinballs from crisis to crisis, most, if not all of which are problems of his own making, he contemplates his sputtering career, failed relationships and dying friendships. Oh, and there's a cat who figures in there somehow.
Thursday, 5 December 2013
|Halle Berry (pictured) discovers that Catwoman is no longer the biggest mistake she's ever made.|
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Stephen Frears' Philomena is a textbook example of how a strong story and a great performance can overcome pedestrian filmmaking. Judi Dench stars as the eponymous character, an Irish woman who had a child as a teenager and was sent away to work in a convent. While there, the nuns sent Philomena's son Anthony away to be adopted against her wishes, and she has kept it a secret for nearly fifty years. When she finally opens up about her past to her daughter, Philomena's story comes to the attention of Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay), a journalist and disgraced government official who agrees to find out what happened to Anthony so that he can turn it into a magazine article, despite his reservations about doing a human interest story, which he characterises as being stories about weak-minded, ignorant people read by weak-minded, ignorant people.
For a movie that features violent dismemberment, a prolonged discussion about proper masturbation etiquette and a version of the Devil who sports a massive penis, This Is The End is a weirdly moral film. Its story begins with all the good people on Earth being spirited away by the Rapture, then proceeds to show that its cast of privileged, self-involved movie stars (all of whom play versions of themselves) have been left stranded in a Los Angeles consumed by fire and overrun by demons because they're deeply flawed, awful people. It has a very Old Testament view of the world, one in which God most definitely exists, and he is very, very disappointed in you.
Saturday, 30 November 2013
Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are a pair of princesses who have spent most of their lives living within the walls of their castle in the kingdom of Arendelle. Unlike most cases of princesses being kept hidden, they've been kept there for a very good reason; Elsa has the power to control and manipulate ice, and when they were children, Elsa nearly killed her younger sister while the two were playing. Afraid that she might hurt her again, Elsa retreated into the castle to protect herself and Anna while the people of Arendelle went about their lives. As Elsa comes of age, the gates of the castle are thrown open for her coronation, to her dread and Anna's palpable delight. Things quickly go awry, and Elsa flees the kingdom, accidentally leaving it frozen in her wake. It falls to Anna, along with the ice trader Kristoff (Johnathan Groff) and his adorable reindeer Sven, to coax Elsa back to civilization before Arandelle is destroyed by the winter, or before the Duke of Weselton's (Alan Tydyk) men find her and seek to end the cold by ending her life.
Friday, 29 November 2013
Inspired by Julie Maroh's graphic novel of the same name, Blue Is the Warmest Colour is the story of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a seventeen year old girl going through those slightly lost days before adulthood truly begins. She loves to read, talks about boys with her friends, attends anti-austerity rallies, and has only a very vague sense of what she wants to do with her life. Whilst walking through town one day, she sees Emma (Léa Seydoux) and falls for her, hard. After meeting properly at a gay bar, Adèle and Emma meet up, have long conversations about literature, love and life, and become lovers. Over several years, their relationship flourishes, even as they are drawn in different directions, as Adèle becomes a teacher and Emma pursues a career as a graphic designer. As the relationship shapes and defines Adèle's personality, and as that relationship begins to fray, Adèle starts to unravel in tandem.
Thursday, 28 November 2013
For over twenty years, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) denied Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) the rights to her most famous character, Mary Poppins, despite the huge monetary reward she would receive for allowing him to adapt her work into a film. Early on in Saving Mr. Banks, the story of how Disney finally managed to convince Travers to let him make that movie, Travers explains to her agent, for what must be the thousandth time, the reason why she has persisted in her refusal for so long. (Or, at the very least, she provides a reason why she has resisted.) She's afraid that if she signs the rights to Disney, and if he in turn makes a film out of her books, that he will turn Mary Poppins into a cartoon, a creature that is all sparkle and whimsy, with all the rough edges sanded off and darkness removed. While watching John Lee Hancock's film, it's easy to imagine the real Travers tutting ruefully as the corporation that bears Disney's name does to her own life what she feared Walt himself would do to Mary Poppins.