Monday 28 January 2019

Why I Don't Care About the Oscars This Year

I used to love film award ceremonies. It used to be a special occassion where I would go insane if and when my favourite for a category didn't win and when they they did win, scream the house the down. But in the last few years, I haven't been able to stay up for the Oscars, I haven't looked further than highlights for the others and in the last two years, I've completely missed the BAFTAS. Last year was different though. I got to attend the BIFAs (British Independant Film Awards) and it was amazing. There was such a high buzz in the air, plus plenty of famous faces. In fact, last year's awards all round was great fun. I watched as many videos clips, tweets as I possibly could for all award ceremonies. I was invested in the films that had been nominated and couldn't predict all wins. BUT this year, its not the same.

The Oscars seems to have a 'every other year is good' rule. Although 'La La Land' gate was the year before, it still didn't boast a great ceremony all round, in my opinion. This year, its seems to be the same 5 films nominated for everything. How dull. I also haven't seen all the films this year, in fact I think it's just The Favourite (which I adored) that I've seen. Some of the films haven't been released yet over and here and I missed them at LFF, others I skipped. The Best Film selection is an odd bunch indeed. Some films it feels as if the academy has been obliged to give a nomination to. As always, the acting awards are all strategic, putting lead actors in supporting so they have a better chance? This keeps happening and I'm really sick of it.

There are only two awards I am interested in, Best Animated Feature and Best Foreign Language Film. The former, I am keen to see Isle of Dogs win (its an American film BUT the animation is all the handy talented works of the Brits) and of course Into the Spiderverse as it is the truely one of the greatest superhero films ever made as well as being the best Spiderman film. The latter award is the one I really want to see justice done. Nadine Labaki's 'Capernaum' IS the winner and deseves far better than some of the hack reviews I've read in the UK. This brilliant film needs to be seen and cries out to be heard. BUT I think we all know the predictable awards hungry darling 'Roma' will win. I mean, its been nominated in two 'best film' categories, if this isn't a set up, I don't know what is. Saying this, I really hope I'm wrong and Capernaum takes its' award.

Finally, and I'm by far not alone on this, I'm fed up with the lack of female talent being recognised, across the board. It's ridiculous that in the entire history of the Oscars, only 5 women have been nominated for best director and 1 (!!!!!) for cinematography. There has been and continues to be an out cry across the internet asking why so many great films were ignored. A favourite film of mine, 'You Were Never Really Here' directed by Lynne Ramsay and starring one of the greatest actors (calling it) of this generation, Joaquin Phoenix, literally got no recognition at all. The BAFTAs took note and lumped it into the Best British Film but nothing else really. There have been brilliant films made by women in the past year so much so that a list of alternative nominations was created. I agree with almost all of them, except Madeline's Madeline, that film was not great. A mess really. That aside, HERE is the list so you can decide for yourselves if the alternative universe where women's work is appreciated like men's.

I'll pick up on the winners and highlights of the ceremonies but otherwise, you won't find me glued to a screen next month.

Thursday 24 January 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies You Walked Out Of

I don't walk out of films, mostly because I've paid to be there and want my money's worth. I also stay because I need to see it all to have a valid opinion at the end, whether I love it or hate it. This the same for press screenings BUT there have been films where I've either very much wanted to leave or had to turn off. This week's theme was chosen by Brittani from Rambling Film.

Dog Eat Dog
This is a terrible film. I hate it with all of my being. Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook are three former prisoners who are hired to kidnap a baby and share the ransom money. It is a horrible film and I hated it from the very violent opening scene with Dafoe. Hated it so much I didn't finish it.

I would have actually left this film but because of where I was sitting I would have disturbed a lot of other people and has no other choice but to walk  in front of the screen to get out. My thoughts on the mess of this film can be read here.

Scorch Trials
The second film/book in the Maze Runner series, which I had read and was interested to see how they would let this story play out. Its over complicated in the book BUT eventually made sense. However, as the first film changed things from the book (made sense to to be honest) I knew it was going to be different. Its in this post for a reason, so, I hated it. I got through a third of the film, where it is NOTHING like the book. The book is ok so I had hoped it would be better but nope its just bad. It's so bad, I stopped, then skipped ahead, then just left it. I didn't care what happened to Thomas and his merry band of maze buddies. I didn't care how or if they made it across the desert or what was WICKED. As I said, its an over complicated story and there are many plot points that don't make sense. I didn't even know the third film came out, The Death Cure, at some point. I didn't bother with the last book either.

Don't forget to check out where it all started over at
Wandering Through the Shelves

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Blind Spot Series: Grand Hotel

Determinded to start this year well and in style, at least when it comes to the Blind Spot series, I've gone through my film collection and looked for the films I own and STILL not seen and that happen (in my opinion) to be classics that I need to watch and long over due. A bargain I found in 2017 while in Bristol finally had its day, Grand Hotel.

Originally placed on a previous list as one of the films that inspired Wes Anderson's Grand Hotel, this gem from 1932 directed by Edmund Goulding has a rather star studded cast playing an aray of characters that pass through the hotel in Berlin. A despressed famous dancer can't bring herself to go on stage, a Baron and gentleman thief is trying to steal pearls from the dancer and makes friends with an over worked book keeper who has found out he is dying and wants to live a good life before he goes, his employer, also staying at the hotel is trying to put together a merger that will save his business calls for a stenographer who in turn catches the eye of the baron, with a few other characters who appear through out such as the stressed porter who's wife is in labor at the hospital and the disfigured veteran doctor who comments at the start and the close of the film that nothing ever happens at the hotel. The famous line 'I want to be alone' originated in this film, said by Greta Garbo's dancer as she languishes in her hotel room about to take her own life, she is stopped by John Barrymore's thieving Baron who changes his mind about the pearls.

The intricate details of the hotel, with the guest rooms, dance and bar room and the fantastically designed lobby, that is in the center of the spiral of floors. It is grand in every sense of the word. The 360 degrees desk was designed so that the audience could view the action at any angle. A hotel is always a fascinating place to set a story as there is a story behind every door and quite the opposite to what the doctor says, so many things can happen in just a few days. Love, peace and murder are just a few things that take place in the Grand Hotel with vibrant characters to keep us entertained. There is beauty to found in 30s decor, costume and location, especially watching the film now.

The film inspired a remake in the 40s, this time transporting the hotel to New York. A second remake was in the work in 70s but never came to fruition. A story like this has a universal appeal but the setting in 30s Berlin captures the energy of the time and film itself. A film worth waiting to see.

To find out how it all started, head over to The Matinee and to see what's happening now, check out Returning Videotapes who is the new host of the Blind Spot Series.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

I Got You Babe

 Great love stories are hard to come by. Especially those that have the power to cause an audience to emote to the point of tears. Even when there is awful drunk old man swearing very loudly and flashing his phone light all over the room.

I've always been a Chaplin fan so never really watched Buster Keaton and only a few bits and pieces of Laurel and Hardy, but with word on the grape vine or through emails at one of my previous jobs, I found out there was going to be a biopic of sorts about famous comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

The film focuses on their 1953 tour of the UK and Ireland, which doesn't quite go as planned. Staying in dingy hotels and playing to barely an audience. The understanding is that they are doing the tour until they start shooting their next film, a spoof of Robin Hood, which Laurel has been in talks about with a producer in London, who's name Hardy continuously gets wrong. Dealing with the decline in popularity, decline in health, past arguments which they both still hold on to and their lifelong partnership, take a toll on the two comedians but not their unbreakable friendship.

Starting with a fantastic opening scene, where Stan and Ollie, at the height of their fame in 1937 walk across the studio to their set, with their backs to the camera for most of the scene, we hear them casually talking, we know exactly who they are and instantly understand what the two men are like. The film then picks up in 1953 in dreery North England where the duo are about to start a tour. The empty theatres, a sign of the times and a question of whether they should keep going. Their age, health and status are always in question, even they start to do a bit of publicity bringing success and sold out audiences. The most charming a brilliant scenes are when the two friends are alone, going over new material Stan has written or simply just comforting each other after Ollie, or as he is more affectionatly called, Babe, makes a shattering decision.

Heart aches and breaks that these two friends have shared aren't really about their many marriages, but with each other. Notably, when Hardy made a film without Laurel while the latter was in a contract dispute with the studio owner, Hal Roach. This felt like a betrayal to Laurel which comes out after a successful performance when the duo argue. But this is not a spectacle of an argument, this is quiet heated angry words followed by the throwing of bread roll. The heightened emotions of the film are gloriously understated, no dramatics, just real heartbreaking moments. With a brilliantly cast John C. Reilly as Hardy and Steve Coogan (who deserves more praise than I've seen/read) who really does morph into Laurel. Their wives Lucille and Ida, played by Shirley Henderson (always a delight) and Nina Arianda are also an amusing pair, as said in the film, two double acts for the price of one.

A great love story doesn't have to be about romantic love, the friendship of Stan and Ollie is a great love story and we get to see just a glimpse into it through this film.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: The Cold

 Nothing like an ice cold thriller on winter's eve when you're all safe and warm indoors. Or in my case, actually really cold under a big knitted jumper in a drafty room. Coldest room in the house, it never gets warm in here...anyway. I went with the old theme within a theme but the main theme this week was suggested by Birgit.


Where's the last place you'd want to investigate a murder or possible serial killer case? Antarctica, obviously. U.S Marshall Kate Beckinsale is about to leave the frozen lands before 6 months of winter traps her and her pals there but when they discover the body of a scientist and it looks like death by axe, she decides to investigate. Good idea? I don't think so.

Wind River
Decent neo-western murder mystery with a devastating past story and present death. When Jeremy Renner, expert tracker and grieving father, finds the body of a young woman frozen to death, barefoot, foulplay is suspected. Enter literally the nearest FBI agent Elizabeth Olsen who takes on the case. Something suspicious in the nearby oil drilling site? You guessed it!

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Another adaptation of Agatha Christie's famous novel featuring famous detective Hercule Poirot, but alas as he is played by Kenneth Branagh, he is the worst thing about this murder mystyery upon the famous train, through a snow storm. You know the drill, a group of strangers travelling, one is murdered then one by one the suspects are questioned. Poirot then reveals all in an over the top, last supper set up scene. There are better versions of this story, seek them out.

Don't forget to check out where it all started over at
Wandering Through the Shelves

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Novelist, Mime, Actress and Journalist

What a way to start the new year with not one, not two, but THREE British films and all period costume dramas AND all based on real people. What are the chances of that? Having been lucky to see both The Favourite and Colette at LFF last year, I will hopefully be catching Stan & Ollie later this week.

There are far too many stories about women who have propped up men's careers at the expense of their own, fictional or otherwise and say this not as someone who is fed up about hearing about them, but as someone who is appauled that there are just so many. 'Colette' is no different on the surface, as it tells the story about Gabrielle Colette who married Henry Gauthier-Villars, 14 years her senior, famous writer known as 'Willy'. With ideas at his 'factory' drying up, Willy persuaded his wife to write, thus creating the 'Claudine' series. But as Willy was the famous writer, all the novels were published under his name. As 'Claudine' rose to such famous heights, books sold out in bookshops everywhere, the novels adapted into a stage play, her picture on products aimed at young women, Colette wished for her named to be credited alongside her husband's, which he refused.

'Colette' explores her early married life with Willy, her twenties where she created Claudine, the success of her work and her wish to be acknowleged as the writer as well as her strained marriage with Willy, who, a know libertine, had affairs and even encouraged Colette's own affairs with othe women. It would seem that this story doesn't aim to shock but to witness Colette's flurry of creative and sexual desires. She experiences a sort of freedom when she writes about a ménage à trois between herself, Willy and a married woman, even though it seems as if her creative alliances come crashing down for a moment at the thought of her books being burnt. The film is occupied with three main things, Colette's beginnings as a novelist, her marriage to Willy and her burgeoning sexuality. With the author blurring the lines of her fictional character, Claudine's exploits, as the books were inspired by truth, Colette is in danger of being swept up with the Claundine hype. Her choice to take to the stage seems an odd career choice and more of a creative release.

Needing and wanting a release feels like the real theme of the story, rather than Colette just wanting recognition for her work and her husband taking all the credit. It would have been interesting to see what happened to Colette, post marriage breakdown and post Claudine, as she continued to write, most famously, 'Gigi', which was adapted and made into that 50s musical about a young girl who is being groomed to become a courtesan. But do not think that this film falls short of his dramatic and biopic service, it has a great cast, actually welcoming to see Keira Knightly back in a role that suits her perfectly and Dominic West bringing the house down with his awful obnoxious Willy. A story with more to tell and true heroine that has far more to her that what we see on screen.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Place in Title

Go big and go home, in the nicest possible way, that what Baz Lurhmann did with his 'sweeping epic' about love, war, death, predjudice and cattle driving all set down under, starring two of the biggest stars, who are also Austrailan to boot. The story seemed to be about English settler, Nicole Kidman and strong silent man, not even given a name, called Drover, but its all about a young boy and the world seen through his eyes. Its not great, tad too long but its not bad either. 

Notting Hill
For a Londoner, upon reflection, its odd to name a film after an area of London town. To me its that's really annoying place to get to but has some cool little cafes, to my friend, who loves it there, its where she works. She's the one who takes me to said cool places. But for millions of people, its that soppy Brit-Rom-Com where a really famous actress gets together with a travel book shop owner and also where Rhys Ifans was first afflicted upon us all. I don't think I've seen a film or TV show where's hes spoke in his own Welsh accent again. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

In Bruges

The tourist trade for this Belgian city shot up after Martin McDonagh's hitman comedy came out. I knew so many people who went to Bruges and claimed it wasn't because of the film. Ain't fooling me. My sister and I went to Brussels but weren't able to go to Bruges, one day I'll go. A comedy about a two hitmen after one goes through a breakdown is so brilliantly written, cast and made, its a film that stands apart from other comedies, plus I really love hitmen stories.

Don't forget to check out where it all started over at
Wandering Through the Shelves

Tuesday 1 January 2019

The End Is Nigh

 This might be interpreted as an ominous post, especially for so early in the new year but it isn't. This is about a fresh start and the end of of the most brilliantly created TV programmes out there.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events comes to an end, a natural end, as there are no more books in the series to adapt. The story in the books, although odd and disjointed, also had an end. The makers of the show set out to make three seasons/series covering all thirteen of the books in the original series and THAT is what they have done. No, 'lets continue even though the ploy has ended and concluded' bullshit (looking at you Big Little Lies and 13 Reasons Why). The makers of the show know when to end a story. Though Snicket wrote four prequel books 'All the Wrong Questions' about young Snicket and how he became part of VFD, there is little about the books and stories, but then again, never say never.

The series has been a masterclass in how to make a brilliant, faithfull and also creative adaptation. Having the creator the series, Daniel Handler, on board was the best move. Deciding and planning for all three series was also an excellent idea. Keeping all characters roughly the same age as they appear in the story instead of waiting months, years on a possible sequel. TV lends itself to stories such as the Baudelaire's tale of woe, misery and to an extent, adventure. With a story spanning 13 volumes where three orphans have to endure really horrible situations, are threatened with death, their parents murdered and on numerous occassions have had to save each other, on paper this doesn't read a something for children. But with a multitude of stories that are so sunny and bring and well, dull, the darkest of tales are welcome, especially as they are far more than then their collective name. Each book with an alliteration inspired title, new locations, cleverly worded lines, a narrator who gives clues rather than explanations, the books translate perfectly to screen, especially with such attention to literally everything in the books.

 But this series isn't just for fans of the books. There be quite a bit for the fans to pick up on, inside jokes but the series is for everyone who is looking for something wildly different and fantastic to watch. To those who whine and say 'but its too depressing' obviously know nothing about the show or the books. Ignore these whining fools if you are thinking of watching the show, just dive in.

Half way through the final series, coming up to the new twists and turns in 'The Penultimate Peril', I paused to write this post. The series and story have been about secret organisations and such but really at the heart of the good vs evil, its all about family, in particular its about siblings. Nearly all the major and the minor characters have or alude to having a brother or sister or both. Siblings stick together, save each others' lives, protect them from danger, even to the point of pretending to be dead if it would mean their sibling would be safe. My love for the books as well as the show gave me an idea for a further project exploring this theme. But more on that later.

Going back to the series being a masterclass in how to adapt a book or a series of books, there really is nothing like this show and the fact that it has an ending, a sense of completion on a tale that for me, having read the books and waited so long to see it brought to life, this was an adventure and brilliant storytelling and craftsmanship, a series that is far better than most shows out there. No hesitation here. It's ended well, but I'll still miss it. At least I have tattoo to keep me company after the final credits roll.

The World is Quiet Here.