The Watchers

The Watchers

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Awards Season 2018: SAG Awards Nominations


More awards shenanigans with today's announcement of the nominations for the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. These are for actors voted on by actors (so are usually a pretty good barometer for the Oscar acting awards as there's a lot of crossover between AMPAS and SAG memberships).

Below is a list of film nominations:

Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
Mudbound
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Leading Role
Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Leading Role
Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul)
Sally Hawkins (The Shape Of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Supporting Role
Steve Carell (Battle Of The Sexes)
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape Of Water)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
Hong Chau (Downsizing)
Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Some interesting choices here - notably Denzel Washington and Judi Dench in the Lead Role categories, and Steve Carell and Woody Harrelson in the Supporting Actor category. Carell received a Golden Globe nod for Best Actor (Musical Or Comedy) so it seems odd that he's been nominated for Supporting Actor here- Bobby Riggs is as much of a main character in Battle Of The Sexes as Billie Jean King is. This is Harrelson's first nomination of this awards season whilst his fellow supporting actor Rockwell gets his fourth. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has four nominations, whilst Lady Bird has three and The Big Sick, Get Out, I, Tonya, Mudbound, and The Shape Of Water have two each. 

Awards season takes a bit of a break over Christmas, thus providing those less inclined with a bit of respite. My next awards season post will be on 5th January which will contain the nominations for both the Writers' Guild of America (WGA) and Producers' Guild of America (PGA) awards.  

Normal service will now be resumed. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Awards Season 2018: Golden Globe Nominations


Today sees the announcement of the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards, awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). The HFPA split their awards, giving certain categories for both Drama and Musical or Comedy, rather than just going for the out-and-out drama as most awards tend to do.

Below is a list of some of the nominees:


Best Picture - Drama
Call Me By Your Name
Dunkirk
The Post
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Picture - Musical or Comedy
The Disaster Artist
Get Out
The Greatest Showman
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro (The Shape Of Water)
Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Ridley Scott (All The Money In The World)
Steven Spielberg (The Post)

Best Actor - Drama
Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
Tom Hanks (The Post)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Best Actor - Musical or Comedy
Steve Carell (Battle Of The Sexes)
Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver)
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)

Best Actress - Drama
Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game)
Sally Hawkins (The Shape Of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Meryl Streep (The Post)
Michelle Williams (All The Money In The World)

Best Actress - Musical or Comedy
Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul)
Helen Mirren (The Leisure Seeker)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Emma Stone (Battle Of The Sexes)

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape Of Water)
Christopher Plummer (All The Money In The World)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
Hong Chau (Downsizing)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape Of Water)

A full list of nominees can be found here.

Generally speaking, a lot of the names are familiar and were expected- Ronan, Robbie, Franco, Streep, McDormand- and momentum is definitely building to the Academy Award nominations in just over a month's time.

I do have to ask, though: is Get Out really a comedy? Are the producers stretching the definition to ensure the film gets nominated? It's on my watch-list (as I sadly missed it in the cinema) so I haven't seen it but the whole thing doesn't necessarily scream 'laugh riot'. I may be wrong. 

However, there are a couple of surprises, most notably the three nominations for All The Money In The World. This film has, to put it mildly, had a few production issues- with around six weeks to go before release, portions of the film were re-shot when Ridley Scott made the decision to recast the role of miserly millionaire J. Paul Getty in light of the allegations against Kevin Spacey. Christopher Plummer took the role, the reshoots were completed, and now Plummer has a Golden Globe nomination for it as well. 

The Shape Of Water leads the field with seven nominations, with The Post and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri both on six each. 

The Golden Globes will be handed out on 7th January 2018, in a ceremony hosted by Seth Meyers. Congratulations to all nominees!

The next Awards Season post will be on Wednesday (13th December) as the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations are announced.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Awards Season 2018: Critics' Choice Movie Awards Nominations


More awards season shenanigans today with the announcement of the nominations for the 23rd Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards.

Here are a selection of their nominees:

Best Picture
The Big Sick
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Florida Project
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro (The Shape Of Water)
Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name)
Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Steven Spielberg (The Post)

Best Actor
Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger)
Tom Hanks (The Post)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game)
Sally Hawkins (The Shape Of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Meryl Streep (The Post)

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape Of Water)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Patrick Stewart (Logan)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name)

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
Hong Chau (Downsizing)
Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip)
Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape Of Water)

A full list of nominees can be found here.

Refreshingly, the Critics' Choice Awards also recognise genre cinema, with separate categories for action movies, comedy and scifi/horror. In previous years, there have been nominations for actor/actress in an action movie but that doesn't seem to be the case this year. Although I'm massively pleased that Patrick Stewart has been recognised in the Best Supporting Actor category for Logan

As in previous years, we have several actors who have two nominations for the same role. This year, James Franco (Best Actor and Best Actor In A Comedy, Tiffany Haddish (Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress In A Comedy), Margot Robbie (Best Actress and Best Actress In A Comedy) and Saoirse Ronan (Best Actress and Best Actress In A Comedy) have that honour. 

The Shape Of Water leads the field with an impressive 14 nominations across the board. Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, Lady Bird, and The Post all have 8 nominations each.

The Critics' Choice Awards will be handed out on Thursday January 11th 2018. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Next stop on the Awards Season trail will be the Golden Globes nominees announcement this coming Monday (11th December). 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Review: Battle Of The Sexes (UK Cert 12A)


Directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks), from a script by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire), Battle Of The Sexes tells the real-life story of the 1973 tennis match between women's champion Billie Jean King and former men's champion Bobby Riggs. 

Emma Stone is superb as Billie Jean King. King was a pioneer in womens' tennis, a fierce campaigner for equal pay and equal rights in a time when female tennis players would make around an eighth of what the male players would make. Stone captures King's passion and fire, but also explores her more vulnerable side as the film also focuses on King's personal life. Whilst married, King started a relationship with hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (King came out in the 1980s when her relationship with Barnett ended somewhat acrimoniously, and she now lives with her partner of 30 years, her former doubles partner Ilana Kloss.) Stone manages to convey King's tension of wanting to indulge her true feelings balanced against the demands of the sport (and the expectations of her family) nicely. Her relationship with Marilyn isn't sensationalised at all, and is presented very matter-of-factly. Stone truly dsappears into the role and it's a truly impressive performance. 

I will be honest, I've never really taken to Steve Carell as an actor but- after brilliant performances in Foxcatcher and The Big Short- I'm coming round to him. He is pitch-perfect as Riggs, a larger-than-life hustler and showman, a compulsive gambler whose addiction strains his marriage. In the run-up to the match, he plays on the 'male chauvinist pig' persona and doesn't train- assuming that he'll steamroller King. There's something undeniably likeable about Carell's Riggs even though the position he takes on womens' tennis is unlikeable. But, as with Stone, Carell also shows the pathos as his relationship with wife Priscilla strains. A fine performance.

The supporting performances are similarly strong: Sarah Silverman (another actress that I'm not massively fussed on) is great as the snarky Gladys Heldman, the founder of World Tennis Magazine who helped King start her own tour when she boycotted the LTA tournaments. Andrea Riseborough gives a spirited performance as Marilyn Barnett, whilst there's a great supporting turn by Austin Stowell as Larry King (Billie Jean's husband). Elisabeth Shue puts in a dignified and stoic turn as Riggs' wife Priscilla, in love with her husband but unable to cope with his gambling. Alan Cumming is great as the waspish fashion designer Ted Tinling (although some of his advice to Billie Jean re: her sexuality seems a little contrived and he has a very affected accent which is a little distracting). Bill Pullman puts in a strong turn as boorish tennis promoter Jack Kramer, butting heads with Billie Jean throughout. 

As a secondary antagonist in the story, Jessica McNamee provides a certain amount of venom as Australian tennis player Margaret Court. When Court beat King early in 1973 and became the top female player in the world, Riggs challenged her to a match- and promptly annihilated her in less than an hour. There's the suggestion also that, aside from professional rivalry, Court knew about and disapproved of King's sexuality- there's a pointed comment made about 'licentiousness and sin' in all-womens' tours (in real life, Margaret Court has been a longtime opponent to LGBT rights and made several negative statements during the recent Australian vote on same-sex marriage, so it's not entirely certain whether Beaufoy has just retrofitted Court's current position to the original time or whether she was always such a raging homophobe). 

Battle Of The Sexes is a well-balanced film and it's damn well entertaining. If you're not a tennis fan, you don't need to stay away; what I know about tennis could go on the back of a stamp but I found the humour and the drama engaging and the performances exciting. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tez

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Review: Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool (UK Cert 15)


Actress Gloria Grahame was a big star in the 1940s and 1950s. Appearing in such films as It's A Wonderful Life, The Big Heat, and Oklahoma! and sharing the screen with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, and Charlton Heston, she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in The Bad And The Beautiful. Later in life, she focused more on stage work. Whilst in London in the late 1970s, she met a young actor called Peter Turner and the two quickly fell into a relationship. When Gloria became ill, she felt that she could recover in Liverpool and stayed with Peter and his parents. This amazing stranger-than-fiction true story formed the basis of Peter's memoir, Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool, which has now been adapted for film. 

Directed by Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin, Push) from a screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh, the film stars Annette Bening as Gloria and Jamie Bell as Peter. 

Bening is superb as Grahame. A fesity, flirty, firecracker of a woman, unashamed of her past and embracing her future. She isn't a Norma Desmond figure, living for past glories. She's a working actress, doing what she can. It's a livewire performance and one of Bening's best. The film uses footage from Grahame's films and publicity photos, but refreshingly they don't do the usual trick of superimposing Bening-as-Grahame in the original's place (as the film focuses on Grahame towards the end of her life, it would seem strange for them to do that).There's a beautiful poignancy to the final scenes, as Gloria bows to the inevitable, and she and Peter share a heart-rending scene on the stage of the Liverpool Playhouse. A truly wonderful central performance. 

Matching her in intensity and brio is Bell as her younger lover. A working-class lad from Liverpool, he's made his way as an actor (although with no great success). He meets Gloria in London and eventually gets swept up in her world; one that's a thousand miles away from what he's used to. I love that he's rough round the edges (but is never treated as Gloria's 'bit of rough'). Also good is that Peter never exploits Gloria's fame or reputation to further himself; he genuinely seems to love her for who she is (indeed, he seems shocked when the barman tells him that Gloria once won an Oscar). It's a strong performance by Bell who has firmly put Billy Elliot behind him- although it's lovely to see him dancing round Gloria's room at the start. 

Supporting roles are well filled, with Julie Walters as reliably brilliant as ever as Peter's mum Bella. What could have been a stereotypical Scouse ma, fretting over ever detail, is elevated by Walters' wonderfully nuanced performance. Kenneth Cranham is great as Peter's dad Joe, whilst Stephen Graham rounds out the family unit nicely as Peter's brother. Vanessa Redgrave gets a great scene as Gloria's mother whilst Frances Barber is nicely venomous as Gloria's catty sister Joy, who casually lays out over dinner that Gloria's fourth husband was her stepson from her second marriage (which caused a real-life scandal in the 1960s).

The script is fairly solid although there are several instances that are mentioned that it would have been nice to see dramatised- the shopping trip to get Gloria's 'ruby red slippers', or seeing Gloria in the Turners' kitchen making a bacon butty, for example. Also, the script is non-linear- it starts with Gloria's collapse in Leicester as she prepares to go on stage in The Glass Menagerie and then bounces around both time and location- from London to Los Angeles, New York to Liverpool- to tell the story of Gloria and Peter's relationship. In itself this isn't necessarily an issue but sometimes the bridging between flashbacks is a bit clunky- opening a door in the present to find you're in the past. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. 

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool should appeal to fans of classic cinema as it tells a compelling and (I'm assuming) not widely known story. A fine ensemble cast give some of the strongest performances I've seen on film this year. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tez

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Review: Justice League (UK Cert 12A)


SPOILER WARNING! This review discusses and/or mentions a few important plot points. If you would prefer not to have these spoiled, please stop reading now and come back once you've seen the film.

After the death of Superman, the world seems to be a place without hope. When an alien threat arrives and places the planet in danger, Bruce Wayne (with the help of Diana Prince) decides to track down others with superpowers to help fight against this new foe. 

Predictably, general critical response to Justice League has been middling to poor. At the time of writing, it currently stands with a 41% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes (although, tellingly, an audience rating of 84%). Film is an artform, not a science. It's not something that often deals with facts (other than those concrete verifiables like box office receipts, cast and crew, any awards hype, and so on). It thrives on opinion. And that's all that film criticism is: it's someone's opinion. Art is ultimately subjective and the opinions of those of the viewing public- who pay to put their bums on seats and watch the film- are as valid as those of the professional critics.  

My opinion is this: I thought Justice League was a lot better than I feared it would be. 

So what's good? Well, the cast are pretty strong (although Affleck doesn't seem as comfortable here; more on that later). Of the new characters, it's Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash who comes off the best. Socially awkward, quite geeky, he takes to this brave new world of heroes like an enthusiastic puppy. He also gets a lot of the humour. He gets a particularly good scene opposite Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg where they attempt to bond over digging up Superman's coffin. Fisher is decent as Cyborg, although the character feels less developed than the others. Jason Momoa is an imposing, charismatic presence as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and also gets a nice scene where he unwittingly gets a bit too close to the lasso of Hestia. 

Henry Cavill is as strong as he always has been in the role of Clark Kent/Superman. He obviously doesn't make an appearance until just after halfway through and his frenzied fight against the League is pretty impressive. Luckily, there's a deus ex machina to stop him from pummelling them into the dirt (and it isn't as ridiculous as the 'Martha' moment in Batman V Superman). Gal Gadot is assured and powerful as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. She's a de facto leader to the group and the film lifts whenever she's on screen. 

As for the supporting cast, generally strong although with such a large cast, some do get shortchanged. Amy Adams doesn't get much to do as Lois but she's good (although they've inexplicably cut the rather tender scene shown in the trailer where Clark mentions the ring). I did want to see more of J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, although he did get a particularly good one-liner which I enjoyed. Jeremy Irons is still wonderful as Alfred whilst there's a nice cameo by Billy Crudup as Henry Allen (Barry's father). 

The slow-mo effects on The Flash are amusing (imagine the 'Time In A Bottle' sequence from X-Men: Days Of Future Past or the 'Sweet Dreams' bit in X-Men: Apocalypse and you're on the right track). Danny Elfman's score is powerful and positive and has a few nice little Easter Eggs for those who care to listen. The scene of Superman's resurrection is probably the best sequence in the film. Also, the lighting seems to have improved; there's not a lot of gloomy darkness and I could actually see what was going on most of the time. 

That's not to say the film is perfect. It's far from it. The script is uneven and occasionally very info-dumpy; it does have to properly introduce three new characters who the audience have only ever really seen in passing, but it all feels a bit clunky (especially Aquaman's little tete-a-tete with Mera). It would perhaps have made more sense to have had at least the Aquaman and Flash solo movies prior to the release of Justice League (to cut down on this). And just an FYI- London doesn't have city blocks!

Also tonally, the film is a bit of a mess- Joss Whedon's and Zack Snyder's directorial styles are very different and you can tell what's been added and what's been reshot (the farrago over Superman's CGI upper lip notwithstanding). It's why Ben Affleck feels a little less comfortable in the role than he did in Batman V Superman. There he was the tortured, brooding Batman; here, he's cracking wise. There's also an over-reliance on slow-mo (understandable when you're talking about The Flash, but it soon becomes wearying). 

However, my main complaint against the film is the villain, Steppenwolf. The CGI on him is massively shoddy (he looks like a mid-2000s Playstation character) and the motivation he's given is paper-thin. Plus, the curse of the DCEU strikes again with a massive CGI blow-out final battle which is difficult to keep track of. Bizarrely, it also feels like there's very little at stake: the human consequences of the alien invasion are pinned onto one Russian family who are barricaded into their home as the Parademons swarm. There's no jeopardy.

So yes, the film has its issues. Given the circumstances of Snyder having to withdraw due to a dreadful family tragedy then Warner Bros hiring Whedon to finish/reshoot the film, it was always going to have issues. But it's nowhere near as bad as some reviewers would have you believe. It is a superhero movie. It's two hours of- dare I say it?- fun. Not as good as Wonder Woman, but head-and-shoulders above both Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tez

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Awards Season 2018: Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations


With today's announcement of the 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations, Awards Season 2018 is now underway. As they used to say on one of my favourite TV shows as a child (Knightmare), 'the only way is forward; there is no turning back.'

As you will probably know by now, the Film Independent Spirit Awards recognise films made wholly or partly outside the traditional studio system (although there is becoming an increasingly wide overlap between these and the more 'mainstream' awards). 

Below is a selection of nominations:


Best Feature
Call Me By Your Name
The Florida Project
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Rider

Best Director
Sean Baker (The Florida Project)
Jonas Carpignano (A Ciambra)
Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name)
Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie (Good Time)
Chloe Zhao (The Rider)

Best Male Lead
Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats)
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Robert Pattinson (Good Time)

Best Female Lead
Salma Hayek (Beatriz At Dinner)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Shinobu Terajima (Oh Lucy!)
Regina Williams (Life & Nothing More)

Best Supporting Male
Nnamdi Asomugha (Crown Heights)
Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)
Barry Keoghan (The Killing Of A Sacred Deer)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Benny Safdie (Good Time)

Best Supporting Female
Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Lois Smith (Marjorie Prime)
Taliah Webster (Good Time)

A full list of nominees can be found here.

Call Me By Your Name leads the field with six nominations, with Get Out and Good Time each with five. 

The Film Independent Spirit Awards will be handed out at a ceremony hosted by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney on Saturday 3rd March 2018 (one of the last award shows before the Academy Awards). 

The next major announcement for awards season will be on 30th November with the Critics' Choice movie award nominations.

Tez