Archive for February, 2009

Thom’s Oscar round up…

February 12, 2009

Wednesday 11th February 2009

Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The Reader (2008), Frost/Nixon (2008), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Milk (2008).

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So I’ve now managed to work my way through each of the nominees for this years best picture Academy Award, as well as a bunch of the ‘also rans’. I found myself unusually drawn into the whole Oscar spectacle this year, pretty much for the first time. Maybe because I’m more exposed to all the comings and goings due to my profession, but certainly in the past I’ve always looked down upon the whole affair with some derision. Anyway this year I’ve followed it from the start much int he same way that I really got drawn into the presidential race right from the get-go. Maybe I’m finally becoming a yankophile?

So to the pictures themselves. Slumdog Millionaire – which I wrote about previously on here – was the first one of the five I caught, before in fact the nominees were announced. I was particuarly gushing about it at the time about a month ago, and I stand by that. Its a well made, attractive film with an uplifting, yet grounded theme. Let down only perhaps by some of the acting. This stands a good chance nonetheless, if for no other reason than the feel-good factor pushing it through in these “dark and uncertain times.” It would be good to see a British film shot in India win at the Oscars, but I wonder whether Hollywood will just stick to its own?

Second came The Reader. This to me was an ok film but nothing more. There was nothing about it that blew me away. Whats more I didn’t really understand what the moral of the tale was. Ron Rosenbaum’s piece in Slate makes interesting reading (http://www.slate.com/id/2210804/). Mr Rosenbaum points to the New York Times’ lumping of the film in with tales of personal triumph. Indeed, why should we care that an extermination camp card has learnt to read whilst in prison? Theres more to it than that, I guess the suggestion is that Nazism was not a black and white issue. Arguably Mr Rosenbaum goes too far in his piece to suggest that this was in fact the case, I for one can certainly imagine grey areas, but the fact remains as far as this particular movie is concerned I was left feeling unsure eactly what I was supposed to take away from it. Well directed I suppose by Stephen Daldry but not well enough for me to get overly excited about his long awaited adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.

So onwards to Frost/Nixon. This I found to be an interesting film but not much more. Frank Langella was brilliant as Nixon, and at times I really thought I was watching Tricky Dicky himself, but as for Michael Sheen I really just can’t get past Tony Blair. Its sad I know, but thats type casting for you. I actually saw this more as a comedy, but I’m unsure whether it was meant to be read that way. Whatever the case, it hasn’t really stuck in my mind, so in short – is Nixon the One? I doubt it.

I caught David Fincher’s Oscar effort The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night. Clocking in close to three hours, oddly this seems to be the front runner for many. I for one don’t see what all the fuss is about. It seems like I’ve said this about all the films I’ve talked about here, but this was ok/average but nothing more. Really for me it was just a stylised version of Forest Gump. Sure, technically it may be breaking new ground and it had some nice shots, but much of the atmosphere and shooting style of the film seemed completely contrived. And for all the technical brilliance fo the film, there was not mcuh of a storyline to hook it upon. Which is sad when you consider that the source material comes from none other than the great F Scott Fiztzgerald. One of my favourite ever authors, and someone who has an untouchable talent of turning a tale, particularly in his short stories of which Benjamin Button was one. This was completely lost on this film which bares little in common with the short story bar its title. To be fair my ambivalence towards this film doesn’t surprise me. I’ve never gone nuts over Fincher’s previous work, and share the same ambivalence towards SevenFight Club et al (shock horror!).

To complete my Oscar set, tonight I caught Gus Van Sant’s Milk. Like my attitude towards David Fincher, none of Gus Van Sant’s previous works have done much for me. I found that dreamy detcahment that he employs in Elephant and the like, to be quite cold and emotionless. Maybe thats the point, but I needed more than that. But shit, Milk actually delivers the goods. Its almost the polar opposite of Elephant, the camera gets right in there and it becomes an amazing character study bursting with emotion. Whats more in a year when everyone is going on about the all male cast (see  Valkyrie, Frost/Nixon, W) noone seems to have mentioned the amazing male cast in this film, but jesus it is special. Until now I’ve sworn blind that Mickey Rourke has to be the shoe in for best actor for his role in The Wrestler (a frankly seminal film which in my opinion totally should have been up for Best Picture, but hey), but after seeing Sean Penn as the epynonomous Harvey Milk I’m not so sure any more. Moreover, Penn is supported by unbelievable supporting performances particularly from Emile Hersch  but also of course James Franco (he’s come a long way from Daniel Desario!), Josh Brolin (he’s come a long way from Brand Walsh!) and  Joseph Cross. Just everything about this film seemed to work, it was just really well stiched together, I don’t know what else to say beyond that.

So to sum up, if I had the vote for the Academy Awards, firstly the nominees would include The Wrestler and  In Bruges and a whole host of other films that trumped those that did make the final cut. But stuck with those five, its Milk hands down for me. Followed by Slumdog Millionaire with the rest just falling by the wayside. In reality come February 22nd I can see the gong going to either Slumdog or Benjamin Button. Watch this space…

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Leave it all behind

February 4, 2009

Wednesday 04th February 2009

All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane (2007)

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I went to see this Australian film at the Barbican, because I guess I associate the time I myself spent living and travelling in Australia almost a decade ago now, as a real time of transition and pleasant uncertainty in my life. I’d just left school, and didn’t really have much of a clue about anything. Not of course that I have much of a clue about anything here and now, and I guess my life hasn’t completely petered into predicatble stillwater, but I can’t deny that I occasionaly miss that transient mystery of not really knowing what each day, week or month might bring.

Unfortunately there was nothing mysterious or really particularly interesting about this film – a kind of poor man’s Reality Bites with Australian accents – but it did allow me the chance to cast my mind back and indulge in some carefree memories.
And needless to say it presented an infintely more positive outlook on life than my last cinema outing a couple of days ago to see Sam Mendes’ unrelentingly bleak Revolutionary Road. That offered a life of compromise, drudgery and long forgotten dreams. All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane at least reminds us that we should go out and seek our excitement int he world wherever it may be.

Apparently Australians are silly enough to believe that that excitement lies here in London, or more specifically Earls Court. But at least they’re out there trying. Thats the main thing…