The Watchers

The Watchers

Monday, 30 January 2017

Review: Lion (UK Cert PG)


Biopics are pretty much catnip to the awards organisations, so it's not been any surprise that Lion has been up for loads of awards. 

It's the very moving true story of Saroo Brierley, a young man who- as a boy- got separated from his family in rural India, found himself alone in Calcutta and put in an orphanage, before eventually being adopted by an Australian couple. As he grew up, Saroo always wondered about his birth family and eventuall started using Google Earth to try and track his biological family down. 

I will happily admit to a few tears along the way, such is the power of the story. I never felt blatantly emotionally manipulated by the film, which is a credit to Luke Davies' script (adapted from Saroo's memoir) and to the amazing performances by the talented ensemble cast.

I am always a bit wary about films which have child actors as a main part of the story, in case the child comes across as annoying, too cutesy, too saccharine or an old soul in a young body (which can be irritating). However, Lion has a real star in the making in Sunny Pawar, the young actor who plays Saroo as a child. Your heart absolutely breaks for him as he's left alone in a huge, noisy city with people who speak a language he can't understand. The film also adeptly shows the dangers that street children can face (from being abducted or chased by the police); there isn't any kind of sugar-coating to make Saroo's estrangement palatable. The other main child actor Abhishek Bharate, who plays Saroo's biological older brother Guddu, is also very strong and the two young actors have a real believable rapport.

I am a huge fan of Nicole Kidman and have been for over 20 years (I kind of fell in love with her a bit when I first saw Batman Forever) but her performance here as Sue Brierley, Saroo's adoptive mother, is one of her strongest performances to date. There's one particular scene- a conversation between Sue and the adult Saroo, where they talk about adopting children rather than having their own- which was the first time I cried during the film. It's a warm, loving performance which helps to form the emotional backbone of the film and she's equally matched by David Wenham as her husband John. 

As the adult Saroo, struggling with the weight of his past and determined to find the truth, Dev Patel is also strong. Conflicted between what he sees as a privileged upbringing, miles away from his own home, Patel's performance is honest and authentic. As Saroo's girlfriend Lucy, Rooney Mara adds yet another accomplished performance to her filmography. Supportive of Saroo's quest, even at the cost of their relationship, Lucy is there as the parts of the story start to come together. 

This is director Garth Davis' feature film debut (having directed television, documentary and short films before). It's a quietly assured debut which saw a surprise nomination by the Directors' Guild of America earlier this month. Whilst I can't describe the film as 'feel-good' (there's a real current of bittersweetness that runs through the film, even at the end), it's uplifting and it's emotional. Go see it, but make sure you bring a tissue or two.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tez

Awards Season 2017: Producers' Guild Awards Winners and Screen Actors' Guild Awards Winners


A double whammy of awards season stuff today, so with very little ado, let's crack on with it.

PRODUCERS' GUILD AWARDS (PGA) WINNERS


On Saturday 28th January, the Producers' Guild of America announced its winners for the 2017 Producers' Guild Awards. 

The film winners are:

Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures: La La Land

Documentary Film: O.J.: Made In America

Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures: Zootopia

No real surprise with either La La Land or Zootopia's wins as they've been the stand-out winners in their respective fields all throughout the awards season. All three films have been nominated in their respective categories for the Oscars so surely this doesn't do their chances of winning any harm. 

--------

SCREEN ACTORS' GUILD (SAG) AWARDS WINNERS


Yesterday (29th January), the Screen Actors' Guild Awards were announced. Here are the film winners:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: 
Hidden Figures

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: 
Denzel Washington (Fences)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: 
Emma Stone (La La Land)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: 
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: 
Viola Davis (Fences)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Film:
Hacksaw Ridge

Interesting to see that the SAG voters went for Emma Stone and Denzel Washington over Natalie Portman and Casey Affleck, but it's always good to shake things up a little bit lest it all gets a bit predictable. No surprises with Ali and Davis' wins, which must bode well for the Oscars. 

Next up in awards season will be the Directors' Guild Awards which are announced on February 4th.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Review: Hacksaw Ridge (UK Cert 15)


After a decade since his last stint as director (for the bloody Mayan action-adventure Apocalypto), Mel Gibson makes a triumphant return to the Hollywood fold with Hacksaw Ridge, a mature and unflinching war drama which tells the extraordinary true story of Desmond T. Doss. Doss served as an Army Medic during the Second World War but, due to his religious beliefs (he was a staunch Seventh-Day Adventist), he never carried a rifle and never killed anyone. Instead, he saved over 75 wounded soldiers from Hacksaw Ridge (part of the Battle of Okinawa) and became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. 

I'll be honest with you. I didn't expect to like, enjoy and respect this film as much as I did. Whatever you may think of Mel Gibson's past indiscretions (for want of a better word), this is a remarkable film.

It's led from the front by a charismatic and powerful performance by Andrew Garfield as Doss. Garfield has the acting chops and personality to carry a film (see The Amazing Spider-Man films if you want proof of that) but here he's simply superb, embodying Doss' unwavering belief without it ever becoming polemical or one-note. Doss had a real struggle with the Army to be allowed to serve without carrying firearms, which the film shows, and you feel for him every step of the way. Garfield has real chemistry with Teresa Palmer (who plays Doss' girlfriend and later wife Dorothy) which adds an extra dimension to the character. Garfield has been winning award nominations left, right and centre and it's truly deserved. 

Hugo Weaving puts in a great supporting turn as Doss' war-scarred hard-drinking father Tom, who survived the First World War whilst his friends didn't, and returns to town with survivor's guilt and a burning dislike of the military. His disappointment when both sons enlist is palpable but he eventually supports Desmond's decision. Rachel Griffiths has less to do as Doss' mother Bertha but is instrumental in instilling faith into him and is more supportive of his decision. Palmer's performance as Dorothy is quite lovely too; she's not just there as window-dressing, she's a strong and independent woman and a character in her own right.

When Doss gets into the Army, a whole raft of new characters come in but it's to the film's credit that- even if some of them are only broadly sketched out- all the men in the platoon have discernible characters. Vince Vaughn is particularly good as platoon Sergeant Howell, and he gets some good laughs as well as some dramatic moments. Of the platoon men, it's Luke Bracey who gets the most character development as Smitty Ryker, who doesn't believe in Doss' outlook, calling him a coward, yet eventually respecting the man for it. 

Gibson's films have never shied away from showing harrowing and gory violence and Hacksaw Ridge is no different. Once the film shifts to the theatre of war, it's all out as bombs, bullets, blood and body parts start flying around. It never feels gratuitous, never feels exploitative but absolutely in keeping. War is hell and it would be a massive disservice not to show it as such. At times, it's not an easy watch but it's undeniably powerful.

At a running time of 2hrs 20m, it's a long film but the story justifies it. You need to see Doss' early life and his courtship with Dorothy and the travails he went through to be allowed to serve in the Army before seeing him in the hell on Earth that was Hacksaw Ridge. There doesn't feel a part that's indulgent or padding.

The film ends with archive footage of the real Doss, talking about his time in the war and his dedication to helping save lives rather than taking them is truly moving and inspirational. The man was a bona fide hero, even more so for never carrying a gun, and the film is a very fitting tribute to him.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Tez

The Watchers Film Show Blog is 5 today!




The Watchers Film Show Blog is 5 today!

We have had nearly 82,000 page views in the 5 years we've been running which is incredibly humbling (especially since the last two years haven't had as many posts as before; you can blame us making thirteen episodes of a web series for that!).

We've had page views from all around the world: from the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Thailand, Bulgaria, Austria, Ukraine, China, Turkey and Poland to name but a few.

A massive, huge thank you to everyone who has supported the blog over the last five years- we're really immensely grateful to everyone who's read, watched or listened to what we do. 

Thanks again,

The Watchers
(Rhys, Matt and Tez)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Sir John Hurt (1940-2017)


We at the Watchers are very sad to report the death of acting legend Sir John Hurt, who has passed away at the age of 77. 

In a career spanning six decades, Hurt had an amazingly diverse filmography, taking in sci-fi, horror, fantasy, drama and comedy, all done with style. His deep rich voice was distinctive and instantly recognisable.  

Born in 1940 in Chesterfield, Hurt was originally encouraged by his parents to become an art teacher, so he enrolled at Grimsby Art School and later won a scholarship to study at St Martin's School of Art in London. In 1960, he won a scholarship to RADA and studied there for two years, making his film debut in 1962 as Phil Corbett in The Wild And The Willing. In 1966, he had his first major film role, playing Richard Rich in A Man For All Seasons opposite Paul Scofield and Wendy Hiller. In 1971, he played the ill-fated Timothy Evans in 10 Rillington Place to great acclaim and was nominated for his first BAFTA film award for the role.


In 1975, Hurt took the role of the flamboyant writer Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, a television adaptation of Crisp's autobiography. In a career as vast as Hurt's, this is one role he is best known for although was initially warned against taking such a controversial role saying it might end his career. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. He won the BAFTA Television Award for Best Actor for his role and reprised his role in 2009 for An Englishman In New York, chronicling Crisp's later years.

After a spectacular turn as the Roman emperor Caligula in the TV mini-series I, Claudius, Hurt then went on to star in Alan Parker's 1978 film Midnight Express as an English heroin addict incarcerated in a Turkish jail. He won a BAFTA Film Award and a Golden Globe for his supporting turn and also gained his first Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor), although he lost to Christopher Walken (for The Deer Hunter). Also in 1978, he provided the voice of Aragorn for an animated version of The Lord Of The Rings and the voice of Hazel for the animated version of Watership Down


In 1979, he was part of one of the most iconic and shocking moments in cinema history: the chest-burster scene in Alien.There appears to be some truth in the urban legend that only he and the crew knew what was going to happen- apparently the cast were informed that the alien would appear but not how much blood there would be or where it would go (Veronica Cartwright's reaction is for real). Hurt parodied the scene several years later in Spaceballs.


In 1980, he was nominated for his second Oscar (this time for Best Actor) for his lead role in The Elephant Man, playing the deformed John Merrick. He won his second BAFTA Film Award and was also nominated for the Golden Globe for this role (although lost out on the Oscar to Robert De Niro for Raging Bull). The detailed make-up took between seven to eight hours to apply and two to remove, meaning Hurt would often arrive on set at 5am and not leave until midnight. After his first day in the make-up, he allegedly called his wife at the time, saying, "I think they finally managed to make me hate acting."

He also played The Fool to Laurence Olivier's King Lear and played a brilliant Winston Smith in Michael Radford's adaptation of 1984. He provided the voice of the Horned King in The Black Cauldron, played The Storyteller in Jim Henson's series of the same name and finished off the Eighties by playing Stephen Ward in Scandal, the film about the Profumo Affair. Throughout the 1990s, he appeared in films as diverse as The Field, Rob Roy, King Ralph, Love And Death On Long Island, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues and Contact.


In 2001, Hurt appeared as wand-maker Mr Ollivander in Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (and would go on to reprise his role in both Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows films). He also appeared as Professor Bruttenholm in both Hellboy films. He appeared in thrillers The Skeleton Key and The Oxford Murders, narrated Lars Von Trier's Dogville and Manderlay and put in a towering performance as Chancellor Adam Sutler in the rather brilliant V For Vendetta.


In 2008, Hurt provided the voice of The Great Dragon for the television series Merlin which ran for five series and then put in a ferocious turn as the foul-mouthed Old Man Peanut in crime thriller 44 Inch Chest, a film which truly has to be seen to be believed. He was also the lead in the chilling Whistle And I'll Come To You (based on the M.R. James short story) then appeared in Melancholia and as Control in the 2011 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He also appeared as Christopher Marlowe in Jim Jarmusch's vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive.


In 2013, Hurt surprised a lot of people by taking a role in Doctor Who. The surprise was made even more by the reveal that he would be playing... The Doctor! To cover Christopher Eccleston's refusal to appear in the fiftieth anniversary special, a new character was created- a regeneration of the Doctor which he doesn't speak about, known only as The War Doctor- which was played by Hurt. As a grizzled veteran of the Time War, determined to say 'no more', he is superb as a world-weary old soldier. Hurt has reprised his role as the War Doctor for several audio stories by Big Finish. 

One of his last film roles was in Jackie, as the Priest who counsels the former First Lady through her grief. At the time of his passing, he has several projects still in production, including playing Neville Chamberlain opposite Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

In 2012, Hurt was awarded a BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema and was knighted in 2015 for his services to drama. 

A brilliant actor who will be much missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

Rhys, Matt & Tez
The Watchers

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Awards Season 2017: Academy Award Nominations


As announced earlier today, here is a selection of the nominations for the 89th Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

BEST ACTRESS
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell Or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea)

A full list of nominees can be found here.

That's 32 out of 34 which is an all time record for me (94%)

Unsurprisingly, La La Land has swept the board with fourteen nominations (which equals the record held by All About Eve and Titanic). 

Meryl Streep also becomes the most nominated actress in Academy history, chalking up her twentieth nomination (and her sixteenth Best Actress nomination).

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gets two nods (Sound Mixing and Visual Effects), while Doctor Strange is also nominated in the Visual Effects category. Animated film Kubo And The Two Strings pulls off a rare achievement in also being nominated for Visual Effects as well as Best Animated Feature. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them gets two nominations but sadly nothing for Deadpool. Ah well, can't win them all. 

There's more awards season stuff happening later this week with the Producers' Guild (PGA) Awards on Saturday (28th January) and the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) Awards on Sunday (29th January). There'll be a post about both of these on Monday.

Huge congratulations to all nominees!

Review: Jackie (UK Cert 15)


The assassination of John F. Kennedy is one of the defining moments of American history. Pablo Larrain's latest film Jackie is a character study of his wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, in the week after her husband's death. Whilst still in mourning, Jackie (Natalie Portman) invites a journalist (Billy Crudup) to interview her where she recounts the events of that fateful week.

At first I found Portman's performance a little mannered, the way she spoke a little discordant. It sounded wrong. However, having found footage of the real Jackie Kennedy (the 1961 White House tour is available to view online), it's a remarkable facsimile. The real First Lady had a very distinct way of talking which Portman successfully captures. But the performance goes beyond impersonation to embodiment as Jackie's tumultuous emotions- ranging from anger and sorrow to steely determination- play across her face. There are a lot of scenes with very little dialogue but you know exactly how she's feeling at any given time. One scene- when Jackie returns to the White House after the assassination, still wearing the blood-stained clothes- is particularly powerful.

Such is the power of Portman's performance, that other performances don't quite reach the same level. Crudup's reporter is really only there to ask questions and to prompt the story forwards (I do wonder whether this framing device was strictly necessary). Peter Sarsgaard is strong as Bobby Kennedy, attempting to support Jackie in her grief whilst managing his own and trying to ensure the Kennedy legacy. Greta Gerwig is good as Jackie's friend and confidante Nancy, whilst there's a surprising turn by John Hurt as an Irish priest who counsels Jackie in her darkest hours. 

Larrain mixes in real-life cinefootage with recreation to mostly good effect, although there are a couple of instances where this really jars (part of the funeral cortege, for example). The recreations, not only of the funeral procession but the assassination itself, are handled very well although the level of detail in the shooting may be too graphic for some people. The score- by Mica Levi- is also particularly strong.

Anchored by a very strong central performance, this is an absorbing study of a woman in crisis. It doesn't quite reach its full potential but is a strong drama nonetheless.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Tez

Monday, 23 January 2017

Awards Season 2017: Tez's Official Academy Award Nomination Predictions


Tomorrow, the nominations for the 89th Academy Awards will be announced.

This year, the Academy will break with tradition and dispense with the usual early morning press conference in Beverly Hills. They'll still be announcing them ridiculously early (5.18am PST/1.18pm GMT) but will instead announce the nominations via a live stream on online and digital platforms. Announcing the nominees will be actors Brie Larson, Jennifer Hudson, and Ken Watanabe, director Jason Reitman, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

As has been my practice for the last few years, I like to try and predict who will be nominated (this is done for Best Picture, Best Director and the four acting awards). Below is my list of who I think will be named tomorrow.

NB. Just like the last few years, the Academy rules state that there could be anywhere between five and ten Best Picture nominees. I have selected ten films. If the total number of films nominated is less than ten, but one of the movies selected is named in my list of ten, I will count it as a successful prediction.

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Loving
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams (Arrival)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell Or High Water)
Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea)

Usually a score of 15 is adequate, but given the fact that there could be anywhere between 5 and 10 Best Picture awards, I'ill be happy with a prediction of 18 or higher. Last year, I got 28 out of 33.

As usual with my predictions, there's a few cast-iron guarantees, a few maybes and possibly a few WTFs. 

This year, it's been the Lead Actress category which has been really fluid with performances by Annette Bening (20th Century Women), Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and Emily Blunt (The Girl On The Train) also being mentioned, so I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see only 2 of my 5 picks nominated (Natalie Portman and Emma Stone are pretty much guaranteed a nod). If Meryl Streep is nominated for her role in Florence Foster Jenkins, that would be her twentieth- yes, twentieth- competitive acting Oscar nomination, more than any actress in the history of the Academy. I've included her in due to the Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nods.  There's also always the chance that if Amy Adams is nominated tomorrow, it could be for Nocturnal Animals.

Joel Edgerton could get a nod for Best Actor for Loving; most likely to lose their place would then be either Viggo Mortensen or Denzel Washington.

Best Supporting Actor is fairly locked, I reckon, although there could always be a surprise nomination for Aaron Taylor-Johnson or Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals in place of Hugh Grant.

Best Director seems like it could be a place for surprises (see last year's nomination for Lenny Abrahamson for Room), although I'd say I think 3 of the 5 (Chazelle, Jenkins and Lonergan) are pretty secure. There could be surprise nods for Denzel Washington (Fences), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals) or maybe even Pablo Larrain (Jackie) or Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures)

Guess we'll find out tomorrow!

Awards Season 2017: Razzies Nominations


As is now traditional (the day before the Oscar nominations), this year's Golden Raspberry Awards nominations have been announced. Ever since 1981, the Razzies dishonour the very worst of film in the preceding 12 months and, by the old Gods and the new, there was a lot of subpar crap to hit the cinema screens in 2016. 

So much so, there's been a change to the Razzies' usual format. As the press release for the Razzies nominations states 'The crop of cinematic crap in 2016 was so extensive that this year's 37th Annual Razzie® Awards is expanding from 5 nominees to an unprecedented 6 contenders in each of its 9 Worst Achievement in Film categories.'

Yep, last year was that bad, they've had to expand the number of nominees. 

So here is the full list of nominations:

WORST PICTURE 
   Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  
   Dirty Grandpa 
   Gods of Egypt 
   Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party 
   Independence Day: Resurgence  
   Zoolander No. 2 

WORST ACTOR  
   Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)   
   Gerard Butler (Gods of Egypt, London Has Fallen
   Henry Cavill (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)   
   Robert  de Niro (Dirty Grandpa)
   Dinesh D'Souza [as Himself] (Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
   Ben Stiller (Zoolander No. 2

WORST ACTRESS  
   Megan Fox (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
   Tyler Perry (BOO! A Medea Halloween)
   Julia Roberts (Mother's Day)  
   Becky Turner [as Hillary Clinton]  (Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
   Naomi Watts (Divergent Series: Allegiant, Shut-In
   Shailene Woodley (Divergent Series: Allegiant)

WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS   
   Julianne Hough (Dirty Grandpa)  
   Kate Hudson (Mother's Day)  
   Aubrey Plaza (Dirty Grandpa)  
   Jane Seymour (Fifty Shades of Black
   Sela Ward (Independence Day: Resurgence)  
   Kristen Wiig (Zoolander No. 2

WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR 
   Nicolas Cage (Snowden)  
   Johnny Depp (Alice Through the Looking Glass
   Will Ferrell (Zoolander No. 2)
   Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)   
   Jared Leto (Suicide Squad)  
   Owen Wilson (Zoolander No. 2

WORST SCREEN COMBO 
   Ben Affleck & Henry Cavill (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)  
   Any 2 Egyptian Gods or Mortals (Gods of Egypt
   Johnny Depp & His Vomitously Vibrant Costume (Alice Through the Looking Glass
   The Entire Cast of Once Respected Actors (Collateral Beauty)  
   Tyler Perry & That Same Old Worn Out Wig (BOO! A Medea Halloween)
   Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson (Zoolander No. 2)  

WORST DIRECTOR  
   Dinesh D'Souza & Bruce Schooley (Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
   Roland Emmerich (Independence Day: Resurgence
   Tyler Perry (BOO! A Medea Halloween)
   Alex Proyas (Gods of Egypt)  
   Zack Snyder (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)   
   Ben Stiller (Zoolander  No. 2

WORST PREQUEL, REMAKE, RIP-OFF  or SEQUEL  
   Alice Through the Looking Glass 
   Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Dawn of Justice   
   Fifty Shades of Black 
   Independence Day: Resurgence 
   Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows 
   Zoolander No. 2 

WORST SCREENPLAY  
   Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice    
   Dirty Grandpa  
   Gods of Egypt  
   Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party 
   Independence Day: Resurgence  
   Suicide Squad

Zoolander No. 2 gets the most nods with 9, with Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice behind on 8. I was expecting to see Ghostbusters plastered all over this, but not a single nomination.   

There's no details as yet for the Razzie Redeemer Award- maybe 2016 was such a bad year there's nobody worth nominating? Who knows? If these details do come through, I'll update the post accordingly.

So that just leaves tomorrow's announcement of the nominees for the 89th Academy Awards. So it's time for me to get off the fence, decide on who I think will be nominated and share it with you fine people.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Awards Season 2017: Directors' Guild of America (DGA) Awards Nominations


Just a quick update today, as the Directors' Guild Awards announced its shortlist earlier for their Feature Film category. These awards will be handed out on February 4th.

The nominees are:

Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Garth Davis (Lion)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

The big surprise here is Garth Davis' inclusion. Lion has been well regarded in this awards season, but generally in the Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories. This is the first mention of Davis as Best Director. Some have called Villeneuve's inclusion a surprise but several other bodies have nominated him (BAFTA and Critics' Choice) so it's not as if it's come out of nowhere.

We get a bit of a break from awards season for a week or so - the next instalment comes on Monday 23rd January when they'll announce the nominees for this year's Razzies. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Review: Manchester By The Sea (UK Cert 15)


Terse and troubled Boston janitor Lee Chandler's life is thrown into freefall upon the death of his brother Joe. Travelling back to his hometown of Manchester By The Sea to break the news to his sixteen year old nephew Patrick, Lee is shocked to find out that Joe has named him Patrick's legal guardian. To take this up would mean Lee having to return permanently to a town full of ghosts.

This is director Kenneth Lonergan's third feature film, after You Can Count On Me (2000) and Margaret (2011), for which he also wrote the screenplay. At the Golden Globes, Jimmy Fallon described the film in his opening monologue as 'the only thing more depressing than 2016'. And whilst the film is an emotional slog- dealing as it does with grief, loss, and the pain of the past- it's also surprisingly funny in places. There are a couple of moments of levity to lighten the darkness.

Casey Affleck is Oscar-bound for his performance as Lee. It's a taut and muscular performance, very naturalistic. At no point does it ever tip into 'I am acting' territory (the same can be said for all the cast, actually). Lee is a man adrift in the world after a terrible tragedy and thrown into a situation he doesn't know how to deal with. Affleck can say so much with a look; you can almost see the thought processes happen behind his eyes.  He has never been better on film and deserves the awards hype and critical praise he's getting.

So too do Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges who play Lee's ex-wife Randi and Lee's nephew Patrick. Williams doesn't get a lot of screen-time but is devastatingly effective as a tough woman, later haunted by the past. Hedges is endearingly gauche and geeky as Patrick, although there's much more to the character than that- he gets a few moments of real emotion which are difficult to watch. The rest of the cast are uniformly strong, with particular standout performances by C.J. Wilson as Joe's friend George and Kyle Chandler as Joe (seen primarily in flashback). My only complaint in terms of the casting is having Matthew Broderick pop up towards the end- the scene he's in is very short but it feels like it belongs in a different film.

The script is pretty tight, jumping back and forth in time, so you need to keep your wits about you. It's a weighty, sombre piece, by no means popcorn fodder, but it boasts some of the best performances I've seen on screen for some time. One for drama aficionados.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Manchester By The Sea is on general release from 13th January 2017

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Awards Season 2017: BAFTA Film Awards and Producers' Guild Awards (PGA) Nominations


It's a double dose of awards season news today, so let's get right on with it!

* * *

BAFTA FILM AWARDS NOMINATIONS



This morning, the nominations for this year's BAFTA Film Awards was announced by Dominic Cooper and Sophie Turner.

Here is a selection of the nominees::

BEST FILM
Arrival
I, Daniel Blake
La La Land
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
American Honey
Denial
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
I, Daniel Blake
Notes On Blindness
Under The Shadow

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams (Arrival)
Emily Blunt (The Girl On The Train)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell Or High Water)
Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake)
Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea)

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)
Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

A full list of nominees can be found here

La La Land has the most nominations with 11, with Arrival and Nocturnal Animals on 9 apiece.

A couple of surprises here- mostly, the love for Nocturnal Animals. This is Gyllenhaal's first nomination for the film in this awards season- the film's other main cast (Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Michael Shannon) have all been previously recognised by other award bodies. I'm really pleased to see Hayley Squires' nomination as her performance in I, Daniel Blake was stunning; I think Dave Johns can count himself unlucky not to be similarly nominated in what is a very strong field. I'm surprised not to see Ruth Negga nominated for Best Actress for Loving (but that may be down to eligibility issues if the film hasn't been released here yet; it's for that same reason that Paul Verhoeven's Elle isn't in the Best Foreign Language Film category and why Isabelle Huppert was ineligible for nomination for Best Actress).

This year's BAFTA Rising Star award nominees are Laia Costa, Lucas Hedges, Tom Holland, Ruth Negga and Anya Taylor-Joy. This award is voted on by the general public and you can vote for your favourite here.

The BAFTA Film Awards will be handed out on Sunday 12th February at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, once again hosted by the frankly wonderful Stephen Fry.

* * *

PRODUCERS' GUILD OF AMERICA (PGA) AWARDS NOMINATIONS


This morning also saw the announcement of the nominees for the Producers' Guild of America (PGA) Awards. 

Below are the film nominations:

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures

Arrival
Deadpool
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

One big surprise name on this list: Deadpool! All the rest are- or have been- tipped as potential Best Picture Oscar nominees. Maybe the Merc With The Mouth could break the duck and actually stop comic book movies from just getting technical awards? Unlikely, as AMPAS can choose anywhere between five and ten films in a year. Besides, PGA has got previous in recognising 'genre' films (having previously nominated Star Trek, Skyfall and Ex Machina)

Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures

Finding Dory
Kubo And The Two Strings
Moana
The Secret Life Of Pets
Zootopia

Four of these five films were also nominated for the Best Animated Feature BAFTA earlier today (sorry, The Secret Life Of Pets). Zootopia's been a strong contender this year so I'd expect to see it win here.

Documentary Film
(previously announced)

Dancer
The Eagle Huntress
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made In America
Tower

Unfortunately, I'm only familiar with one of these films- The Eagle Huntress- so I'm unable to give any informed opinion on this.

The PGA Awards will be handed out on Saturday 28th January.


The next stop on the awards season trail will be the announcement of the Directors' Guild of America (DGA) Awards on Thursday (12th January)

Monday, 9 January 2017

Review: La La Land (UK Cert 12A)


Damien Chazelle's Whiplash was one of my favourite films of 2015. So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I went in to see Chazelle's latest film, La La Land.

A paean not only to Los Angeles, but to film, to music, to love, La La Land follows jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) as they meet and fall in love against the backdrop of the City of Angels.

Where do I start? Chazelle's direction is astonishing and technically accomplished right from the get-go, where a traffic jam on the LA freeway bursts into a huge song-and-dance number. There's a beautiful sequence set in the Griffith Observatory where Sebastian and Mia's relationship intensifies, but Chazelle's directorial flair can also be seen in the smaller, more intimate, scenes where the relationship drama plays out.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play off each other nicely; this is their third collaboration on screen after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad and they really sell the relationship. Gosling plays Sebastian's earnestness about the purity of jazz with passion and commitment, whilst Stone's Mia is no blushing ingenue- she's a few years into her career, still schlepping to auditions, but not yet disillusioned enough to stop her dreaming. There's able support from Rosemarie DeWitt as Sebastian's sister Laura who makes the most of her single scene, whilst there's also a cameo for Whiplash's J.K. Simmons as Sebastian's boss.

Justin Hurwitz's score is beautiful and the songs range from the upbeat- the opening 'Another Day Of Sun' and the party number 'Someone In The Crowd'- to the melancholic- the beautiful 'City Of Stars' and Mia's 'Audition (The Fools Who Dream). As with all musicals, you do have to accept the inherent ridiculousness of people suddenly bursting out in song, but, if you can't do that, then you really don't have much business seeing a musical to start with.

It's a beautiful film, visually sumptuous, cracking soundtrack, a wryly funny script (also written by Chazelle) with two wonderful lead performances and a nicely bittersweet edge to cut through the candyfloss. I know we're only just getting started with the year, but already I can see this being one of my films of 2017.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Tez

La La Land is on general release from 12th January 2017.