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Wild Tales (2015) Trailer

Here’s the trailer for the Oscar nominated best foreign film Wild Tales, opening in the UK at the end of the month. The more I hear of this the more I like it, so I’ll be tracking this down;

I know how this is going to sound but I’ll say it anyway – I’ve actually been getting into Argentinian cinema this year via an unexpected viewing of a terrific unknown film on Film4 last month, so this is perfect timing to further broaden my horizons. Other than snippets such as the great Nine Queens, The Secrets In Their Eyes and the work of Lucrecia Martell my knowledge of this part of the worlds celluloid is sorely lacking, and requires…correction.

Werner Herzog Season – Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)

ag1If Werner Herzog is considered to have made a masterpiece or two during his long and prolific career then Aguirre, The Wrath of God would make a strong case for his first. The 1972 film is also infamous as the first of five turbulent collaborations between Herzog and his ‘best fiend’ Klaus Kinski, a collaboration forged in cinema osmosis between directors and vessel to rival Scorsese & De Niro, Kurosawa & Mifune, Sandler & Coraci. Opening to a gods eye view of a mysterious mist shrouded  boscage a human expedition moves cautiously through the undergrowth, like a slow trail of ants swamped by the enveloping jungle canopy. It is the mid 16th century and this doomed group of conquistadors are traversing the Andes, lead by Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre (Kinski) across the Orinoco and down the Amazon River, in a fevered search of the legendary city of gold El Dorado, infecting the cradle of nature with their mortal obsession of gold and riches. Curiously enough I have been covering the London Human Rights Film Festival recently and much of the screening material concerns crimes committed in Central and South America during the 20th century, injustices, divisions and the theft of resources initiated by the invading conquisidors in the 16th and 17th centuries, arguably fuelling some of the grievous revolutions and uprisings two centuries hence. It’s a pretty good job that we, as a species learn from this blood drenched mistakes and don’t repeat them, like say in the Middle East or anything isn’t it?

ag2Like the film’s closest Herzog companion piece Fitzcaraldo you must marvel at the sheer folly, the crazed chutzpah of shooting in such treacherous and remote conditions, the director and his crew at the mercy of the elements and the indiscriminate jungle just as much as Aguirre and his doomed expedition was four hundred years earlier.  As Aguirre slowly seizes control of the party as they make their way deeper into the jungle the  pious participants turn inward upon each other,  squealing like rats in a cage as their resources, food and water are depleted, as the normal functions of society erode and wane. Man adopts the primitive functions of pure survival, of resigned surrender to the enclosing environment, yet perverts the functions of society to ameliorate and rationalize his destructive actions  – colleagues are executed for blasphemy and treachery to the crown, a nonsense given their precarious survival and need for collaborative defense from their indigenous foes.  Shot handheld with frequent close-ups and an aural soundscape punctuated with the screeching, invisible wildlife of the wilderness it’s a humid and draining film, with an inevitable fate heralded  in the first pungent frames.

ag3Through the narrative construction the film is waterlogged with metaphors, raft, any sort of journey can be read on a micro individual or macro social level, I kinda saw it as query into man’s unknown and unyielding place in the universe, drifting past shores and mysteries unknown, hostile, beautiful and unsympathetic . The film is accentuated with some small, seemingly insignificant visual moments – a shrouded Spanish horse abandoned on the shore, lonely, adrift and sure to die in the jungle; the olive-skinned noblewoman walking purposely and mournfully to exile once her husband perishes, gracefully accepting her inevitable death in the crepuscular canopy; a rodent seizes the young, barely born offspring from a nearby nest and spirits the poor creatures away for sustenance; like brushstrokes on a canvas this is how Herzog etches this haunting odyssey,  all harmonized by a keening score from the electronica synthesisers of Krautrock protégés Popol Vuh. For all these ingredients it is Kinski whom is the pungent pulse of the movie, perhaps the all-time screen personification of erratic eyed lunacy, terrifying the cast and extras on set with his erratic behaviour that bleeds into the film, adopting Herzog’s direction to move ‘like a crab, like a spider’ as his uberman becomes perverted and absorbed into the jungle.

ag5The Blu-Ray is a glorious transfer which sizzles with the vivid colours of the indigenous peoples prismatic ponchos. For scholars there is an illuminating commentary from Herzog himself which details the arduous shoot, bursting with anecdotes and battles with the elemental forces that he had to master to get his vision on-screen – Kinski  and the jungle. He describes Aguirre as a very ‘physical’ film due to the sheer effort required to mount and film it, and there is a rather astounding revelation that he wrote the entire script in two and a half days, whilst travelling with a football tour with his sporting colleagues. I also loved his comment about ‘storyboarding is a disease of Hollywood, it kills all spontaneity of filmmaking’, remarking that he simply had to dream up some moments on the day and capture wonderful incidents of flora and fauna as they unexpectedly occurred,  this methodology is no surprise yet it confirms what an organic and instinctive filmmaker he was. Coppola has cited the film as a then contemporary inspiration for Apocalypse Now which would lurch into its own insane production only a couple of years later (Aguirre only got US distribution in 1975), another quest of foreign interlopers battling a hostile nature and indigenous population turning the crew and cast as fevered & frantic as the characters they were portraying.

ag4Herzog has never been a director whose work you view and remark ‘oh, what a wonderful dolly shot he used there’ or ‘that steadicam work really makes the set breathe doesn’t it?’, instead it is always about the interior grappling with the infinite, exploring the purlieus, the margins of the physical and mental worlds he builds through his assortment of colorful characters, the outcasts and loners that his gives a voice in a world plagued with conformity and staid despair. Despite Kinski being the only named actor in the film Aguirre has a ensemble effect, a wondering troupe of performers utterly out of their depth, mired in the waters of hubris and pampered stupidity. The folly of dragging heavy modern weapons into such treacherous conditions, the religious blinkers and righteous repulsion, the power hungry foreign expeditions still strikes close to home, historically speaking. The film closes with one of Herzog’s most mesmeric images,  of one forlorn and lunatic muttering figure, surrounded by the dead and dying on his ship of fools, his dreams and desires collapsed into ash as he glides into oblivion, assimilated into the wilderness;

Scott Free

Kids today eh? Don’t know they’re born with their modern conveniences and century of cinema lore to absorb, through numerous streaming and on-demand entertainment options. Well, you may have been wondering why the radio silence on two recent high-profile and DNA related announcements, the prospect of a new Alien movie with Neil Blomkamp at the helm following the warmly received pre-production artwork, and the confirmation that Blade Runner 2 is progressing with Ford returning to the Deckard role.

Well, apart from querying if this is how every future project will levering a greenlight going forward – get some outline production design concepts and sketched material together, ‘accidentally’ leak them through social media and gauge the fan reaction – well apart from that I’m hesitantly embracing the first and still rejecting the latter. I think Blomkamp has certain talents which makes this a potentially effective hybrid of material and master, he is skillful at SFX and futuristic world building, and design is absolutely crucial to any successful Alien film.  In fact if you’ve got that right then I reckon you’re 50% of the way there, the creatures, ship designs and planetary environment, I just hope he gets some decent screenwriters to bolster the mechanics and mileau which he badly botched by his own admission in Elysium. Final word – anything possible to eradicate the memory banks of the AvP atrocities is welcome around this sub-orbital system, and Ripley deserves a decent send-off.

Moving onto to our Nexus 6 chums the news of director Denis Villeneuve being attached to the project is an eye raiser, his earlier films (and one wonders if the doubling in this film was one reason he got the gig) were great but I think there is one overwhelming obstacle – the pyramid shadow of the original. Look, I’m not of the adolescent age where any interference of franchise or previous material sends me off on some nerd-rage, quite the contrary in fact, as we’ll always have the original regardless of the remake/reimagining/reboot, and the second generation might be an entertaining picture.

Does Carpenters The Thing seem diminished by infected osmosis due to the terrible prequel? No, of course not. Yet all that said I fail to see what they could possibly do to eclipse the original, as all everyone will be debating another rehash of the whole ‘oooh, is he a Replicant?’ question. Even with half of the original screenwriting talent back on board (and the other writer is the genius behind Green Lantern – awesome!) and Tyrell, Sean, Daryl, Eddie, Roy and even Bryant still defying their termination dates around this sounds like a clusterfuck of epic proportions. A new film set in that same exhausted 2019 world? Maybe. Deckard being back? No, I really don’t think so – some things should be kept sacred. Now, who’s gonna get cracking on that Legend reboot?

Andy Weatherall, Xoyo Club, Shoreditch

A rare musical interlude, as I have secured a lucrative new contract in deepest darkest Lambeth I went celebratory clubbing last night for the first time in a very long time, and saw the titan of electronica Andrew Weatherall at the Xoyo club – it was quite an experience;

I haven’t danced like that for many a moon, the club had a great atmosphere, and bizarrely I don’t even have a hangover today – that four hours of throwing shapes must have sweated the impurities out I guess. Just to confirm the rumors yes he has lost his epic beard, and for some real old school nostalgia here is his classic Essential Mix from the last century;

EDIT – Ah, excellent, here’s a little documentary on the history of Bugged Out, the crew that hosted last nights extravaganza….

Leonard Nimoy RIP

Skegness, 1982, and after being annoyed that we couldn’t see Firefox Down as it was a 15 a disgruntled Minty is dragged along to see some bloody Star Trek movie. Of course everyone will be posting this scene for obvious reasons but it had a profound effect on the nine year old me, I revisted the film last year and it still stands up;

As others have succinctly put it I’m not much of a Star Trek fan but I was a Leonard Nimoy fan, so let’s mourn the passing of a pop cultutal icon…..

It Follows (2015) Preview & Curzon Soho Q&A

it follows 1Halloween has come early this year with a freshly wounded take  on the horror genre, as just when you thought the most cannibalistic of genres was exhausting its powers a new director comes along and shreds a new scream of life into the category of chills with It Follows. Pushing aside my disappointment with last years The Babadook we seem to get roughly one good scare picture a year these days, recent cycles have seen me elect Let The Right One InExcission and Occulous to my exalted best films of the year list, movies which join the pantheon of atrocities, monsters and massacres of cinemas charnel house, in fact here is superb list collating the best horror pictures of the 21st century thus far. It Follows arrives on a crimson crest of  fevered expectation following North American festival frights, with its unusual STD infected idiom and wickedly original premise piquing my petrifying curiosity, so the news of a special preview screening and post Q&A with director David Robert Mitchell and star Maika Monroe over at the Curzon Soho couldn’t be missed.

follows2The films secret weapon lies coiled within its unique premise, as we all know in horror movies if you are a teenager and you have sex then you will die, usually from a machete to the skull or a maniac wielded chainsaw to the guts. It Follows elongates this curse out to equally painful yet existential dimensions, as a cold opening sees a terrified young woman fleeing from unseen assailants to a remote beach. Shivering in terror she calls her parents to apologize for her behavior, before being found in a grotesquely twisted mess by bemused paramedics the next morning. Meanwhile in a muted suburban precinct nineteen year old Jay (Maika Monroe) is idly sitting around the house and paddling in the pool, before going on a date with her mysterious new boyfriend. After a knee trembling incident of intercourse in the back of his car Jay is chloroformed by her suitor and awakes bound to a chair, her terrified partner frantically explaining the rules of some grotesque game.

followsbeaCHLike all infected she will be stalked by a ruthlessly relentless, single-purposed parade of atrocity aligned apparitions, both male and female, old and young, all striving to sweep her up in an onyx eyed bear-hug and give her a sweet embrace, a………hungry………embrace. From that synopsis you could be forgiven for anticipating just another body horror picture, but It Follows actualizes an interior fear with a tangible  threat, less interested in some social malaise in the body politic than it is with  the fear of other bodies and their lurching,  insatiable and intruding appetites. Also unlike the gory preponderance of discharges, excretions and infections the film is aligned to an existential terror which crucially only the cursed can see, a complication which makes for some deliciously distressing little moments of gnawing dread and panic on-screen, as director Mitchell mines these petrifying possibilities with an expert engineering of the widescreen plane. The escape clause gives the film a moral compass and complexity due to the possible antidote offered to the doomed – have sex with other partners and you might be able to pass it on like some poltergeist plundered lethal game of pass-the-parcel.

follow3I loved the hermetically sealed nature of It Follows, as well as the obvious touchstones (early Carpenter in particular Halloween for the suburban uncertainty, Invasion of The Body Snatchers, a smattering of Twin Peaks and a sneaky little howl out to Cat People) it also draws upon more recent other age-closeted worlds, such as Donnie Darko or Brick. Like the latter the film barely has an adult speaking part within it, parents are remote, distant creatures barely existing on the perimeter of these teenagers lives, an alienation aligned with an urban decay which the Michigan locations palpably project. The tension and execution of the chills and spills have clearly been carefully formulated and executed, so we can forgive Mitchell for some rather ostentatious camera work in other sections of the film. As a horror connoisseur this was  an intellectual delight in gleefully following and speculating on the rules of the curse, infection or whatever it may be within the in-film universe, as it’s these revelations which slowly build the increasing sense of corporeal coalescing and inevitable dread, of dealing with the inevitable consequences of your actions in a horror universe more attuned to Hume than Herschell Gordon Lewis.

it follows4What is also refreshing was the relationship between Jay and her friends of both genders, instead of being the bunch of shrieking idiot archetypes usually seen in horror movies (the jock, the nerd, the prom queen etc.) they feel like a much more rounded crew of realistically disaffected teens, a pulsating core of raging hormones trapped in a decaying and decrepit suburban wasteland. With her measured performance Maika Monroe might be the 21st centuries new scream queen given this and her turn in The Guest, she anchors the film with her muted affectations, bursting into terrified bursts of adrenaline as the apparitions begin to hunt – you can sense the terror in her eyes. There’s also no escaping the gnawing and gnashing electronica score from Disasterpeace, yet another addition to the heavily stolen John Carpenter musical pantheon, his influence on modern genre movies seems to clasp talon-tense stronger with each passing bloodbath. Are there more terrifying films in the shadowy halls of cinemas graveyard? Yes, of course, but It Follows is a worthy addition to the abattoir, marking Mitchell as a provocative purveyor of peril – I’ll be keeping my spectral eye on him;

Six Different Types Of Light – John Alcott (1986)

Y’see this is why, for all its faults and irritations, sometimes you just have to love the internet. Here is a completely unknown and unreported documentary about John Alcott, cinematographer on four of Kubrick’s pictures among other works. It aired back in 1986, shortly after his death, and contained therein are some Stanley factoids and anecdotes. As you would imagine it has swept like wildfire through certain appreciation and discussion boards;

Also contains behind the scenes footage of classic The Beastmaster, so don’t say I don’t give you anything….

Oscar Winners 2015

2015Yes it’s Oscar time again, and I frivolously wonder what will be the new addition to this list. One thing’s for sure, I bet we wont get as memorable an acceptance speech as this. As usual I made some herculean efforts to see as much of the material as possible, with the exception of Mr. Tuner I think I’ve covered the majority of stuff, as I want to see that properly on the Blu-Ray to appropriately wallow in Dick Pope’s cinematography rather than watch the damn thing on my computer. I managed to track down Unbroken (run of the mill three star bio-pic), Still Alice, (strong but thoroughly predictable Alzheimer tear-jerker) The Judge, (tediously average moral transformation tedium) Selma, (moving and graceful historical picture, and yes it’s a deep disgrace that Oyelowo wasn’t nominated) Into The Woods (a musical ergo not my thing and Streep’s automatic nomination is absurd) and a cluster of the animated pictures – whew. So that’s almost all the high-profile and technical awards covered, shame I couldn’t find any of the animated live action or documentary shorts on-line but to be honest I didn’t try very hard this year. Here is a great article on the some of the most absurd upsets of the ceremony since its 1927 inception, from one of the best movie sites on the web – if American Sniper wins anything then I’m going postal. I’ve got a Hungarian and Argentinian TV feed running as insurance should one drop out, isn’t the future of telecommunications grand?

oscarAnd as usual the Menagerie standard disclaimer, I don’t treat these awards as anything other than a fun exercise, an adjunct to serious cinephilia, just like the BAFTA’s where Under The Skin was nominated and lost in precisely one category. Exactly which film will still be debated, dissected, admired and crucially inspire upcoming filmmakers in visual culture a decade from now? The Imitation Game? The Theory Of Everything? I won’t insult you with the answer to that puzzle. Industry observer wise though the awards are important, as potential winners will find themselves elevated to a new strata of importance with greater funding dexterity, and that is essentially interesting – just consider the A list dreck that superb actress Helen Mirren has been mired in since her 2006 win, and that’s just one example of multitudes. No, I’m not having a go at her specifically, it’s just an observation considering her pre and post win material, for example should Linklater win director or film will he be on the industry list for an adjunct  Star Wars picture? Yes, and that’s food for thought. If he’s interested. Anyway, you know the drill by now, right? I’ll be darting around with a few scattered thoughts on each nominee section I’ve listed below, apologies in advance for potentially incoherent and bdaly spelld reportage but we are eight hours behind here in the UK so the ceremony doesn’t even start until 1:30am.  Those I’ve seen are in bold, those I predicted would win are in italics, and those that did win are in gold, naturally. FINAL TALLY – I have no idea and at this point I don’t care, but I’m fairly sure that Boyhood was fucked…..

Best Film

bm2

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

I’m wasted yet first instincts are this – for the past three years we’ve had three films celebrating cinema and performance – The Artist, Argo and now Birdman. Solid films in their own way, but as a nest this is insular and uncomfortable. Not good, not healthy;

American Sniper – Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole

Boyhood – Richard and Cathleen Sutherland

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson

The Imitation Game – Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman

Selma – Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner

The Theory of Everything – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster

Best Actor

toe1

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Really? A great start, don’t get me wrong, a first act convincing physical performance but I can’t think that it didn’t quite continue for the rest of the film as this movie was more about other characters, especially when compared to the scope of the other nominees.

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Best Actress

alice

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

I’m a fan of Moore so great, good for her as its a reasonable film but it still smacks of the old yet appropriate cliché – illness equals Oscar. , ;

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Best Director

bm2

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Yeah, he did well with a great panoply of material directing a play, but this film was all in the actors and cinematographer.  If that equals best assembly of material then fine, but I still can’t feel that Linklater was cruelly robbed,,,?

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum

Best Supporting Actor

whiplash

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Well that ceremony opening from NPH didn’t particularly grab me but here we are – yet we are off with a first win, with a succinct speech from J.Jonah Jameson – a good start;

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

 Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

 J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

by3

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Brilliant and utterly deserved, maintaining that performance was quite a thing over that breath of time, and a great, appropriate politically aligned speech – that one line she delivers in Boyhood was something else. Also immortal in Lost Highway of course;

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Visual Effects

interstellar

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Well of course. There has been some queries on the accuracy of the black hole realism to which I say this – erm, what? I’m running behind now but really, the accuracy of how we imagine black holes?…..

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Original Screenplay

night

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Maybe a late surge for the other awards? We shall see…..Nightcrawller deserved some attention though, but here we are…..in a modern world. Have I missed the….oh….

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood – Written by Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler – Written by Dan Gilroy

 

Adapted Screenplay

imi2

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Writers love the historical guess, a obvious choice.

American Sniper – Written by Jason Hall

The Imitation Game – Written by Graham Moore

Inherent Vice – Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything – Screenplay by Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Written by Damien Chazelle

 

Animated Feature

bhs1

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Yes, at this stage I’m doing well I think, losing count of my…..count. I’ve lost the Argentinean feed but the European  insurance is still going. Other options are being pursued. Can’t wait to see again Blackhat tomorrow either. Heh ;

Big Hero 6 – Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

The Boxtrolls – Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold

Song of the Sea – Tomm Moore and Paul Youn

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Cinematography

bm3

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

OK, things are getting little out of control, it’s late and the bourbon is bruising. But yes another win, for one of the greatest cinematographers drawing breath. Maybe one day Deakins will win but this is another appropriate award….

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Emmanuel Lubezski

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman

Ida – Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Unbroken – Roger Deakins

Costume Design

costume

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

He’s a great stylist and can certainly muster a brilliant crew but hey Wes, where is the human dimension to your fantastic, yet cold films?;

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges

Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood

Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran

 Documentary Feature

citizwn

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

For UK viewers its on TV on a couple of days. As I said before it is essential, brilliant, and terrifying in equal measure, and the craft, considering the pressure is impeccable;

CitizenFour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Finding Vivian Maier – John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Last Days in Vietnam – Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester

The Salt of the Earth – Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier

Virunga – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Editing

whiplash

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Yes, and utterly deserved. That film lives and breathes on that scattered arrangement, and the whole jazz thing works wonders in this combination of the visual and sonic. That final scene is sublime, and simply would not work without a perfectionist. A perfect win.

American Sniper – Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Foreign Language Film

ida2

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Ah well that’s fair enough, my early streak is broken. I must see Ida again as although I enjoyed the film I did find it slightly unengaging, the fantastic B&W cinematography aside. I’ve heard great things about Wild Tales though, looking forward to that….

Ida – Poland; Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Leviathan – Russia; Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Tangerines – Estonia; Directed by Zaza Urushadze

Timbuktu – Mauritania; Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako

Wild Tales – Argentina; Directed by Damián Szifron

Musical Score

gbh3

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Ah well, I’ll fight this one on until the end of time, no I won’t as that’s unfair with what I’m doing now. Interstellar was great. It’s half four and eh? What. OK. Sorry…….(cries)…..

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Documentary Short Subject

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Sounds like a worthy winner, I’ll hunt it down.

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Joanna – Aneta Kopacz

Our Curse – Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki

The Reaper (La Parka) – Gabriel Serra Arguello

White Earth – J. Christian Jensen

Make Up & Hairstyling

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES – So now we are three for three, this is a strong start….

Foxcatcher – Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Original Song

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Maybe should have been awesome, but nice to see Glory get some kudos. Good film, give it a watch.

“Everything Is Awesome” from THE LEGO MOVIE – Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from SELMA – Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
 
“Grateful” from BEYOND THE LIGHTS – Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

 

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME – Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from BEGIN AGAIN – Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Production Design

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

And no surprise, one thing you can’t fault Wes is on the texture, but where’s the wider emotion?

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic (Production Design); Tatiana Macdonald (Set Decoration)

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley (Production Design); Gary Fettis (Set Decoration)

Into the Woods – Dennis Gassner (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) 

Mr. Turner –  Susie Davies & Charlotte Watts (Set Decoration)

Animated Short Film

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

So I did manage to see Feast as it played ahead of Big Hero 6,but I didn’t elect to win. Stupid me.

The Bigger Picture – Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees

The Dam Keeper – Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Feast – Patrick and Kristina Reed

Me and My Moulton – Torill Kove

A Single Life – Joris Oprins

Live Action Short 

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Wow, total luck here, I guess I should give it a bell now….

Aya – Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

Boogaloo and Graham – Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak) – Hu Wei and Julien Féret

Parvaneh – Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

The Phone Call – Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Sound Editing

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Ah well these usually come in twos, but not this year. I have sourced a great piece on how instrumental this craft is for movies, gimme a few moments to track it down. Hopefully this is the only nod for Sniper.

American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar – Richard King

Unbroken – Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Sound Mixing

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Yup, another one in the bag. Cool.

American Sniper – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar – Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

 Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

The Duke Of Burgundy (2015)

There’s a great deal of debate and discussion of Peter Strickland’s hugely admired new film hitting the web this weekend, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to remind you of my collection of thoughts here. This is a fantastic collection of influences, and below you can have a flutter at the Stan Brakhage short;

So yes today is Oscars day and yes I will be liveblogging this year, provided I can keep my eyes open…..

Blackhat (2015)

black1Despite the long, circuitous cycle times of the movie business a picture can occasionally appear in theatres just as serendipitous real-life events coincide in an almost eerie fashion. Michael Mann’s new cyber-thriller Blackhat commenced principal photography 18 months ago and finally infiltrated multiplexes in the wake of the Sony Hacking scandal, and even the past few weeks since its US debut have seen a storm of revelations around secret bank thefts and further treacherous NSA disclosures. Unfortunately Blackhat’s contemporary cache hasn’t gained traction with the cultural gatekeepers or mostly bemused audiences, as a miniscule box office haul has been mirrored with criminal critical antipathy. But if you hunt around there are a few lone voices in the digital wilderness who have praised the film for its abstract engineering, and celebrated the technological techniques expertly wielded by one of the great visual practitioners of our time. Full disclosure – Michael Mann is one of my all time favorite filmmakers, I adore his idiosyncratic world of stoic, perfectionist professionals blurring the moral and social lines of the law, with his exquisite attention to detail when it comes to the flora and fauna of his covert worlds – the gadgets, the argot, the vehicles, weapons and procedures. All these elements have been programmed into the processing DNA of this near occult new portfolio, but I can see why it hasn’t quite gripped the popular imagination.

black2Opening with a potentially clichéd visual abrogation we drift from orbit down to terra firma, as a microscopic lens penetrates the inner entrails of the global mainframe, whizzing through pulsing fiber optic cables before finding purchase in some clandestine algorithmic territory – isn’t this a condensation of the computerized infrastructure landscape that every 1990’s cyber thriller repeated ad nauseam?  Yet somehow in Mann’s hands this becomes a powerful abstract metaphor for our globalized world, as a secret transgressor overclocks a Chinese nuclear power station with devastating effect. State security professional Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) is instructed to investigate the breach, who quickly convinces his superiors to enlist the support of the US authorities due to their sharing of manufacturing designs which also pose a significant risk for America’s vulnerable power grid. After discovering that the RAT open source code used to conduct the attack (RAT being the acronym for Remote Access Tool) was written by him and his MIT roommate Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) Chen advises that only his friend has the necessary skills and insight to source the interloper, with one small complication – he is serving a thirteen year stretch for electronic criminal transgressions of his own. A pardon is offered and the global chase begins, with Chen’s sister in tow (Tang Wei, notoriously seen in Lust, Caution) supplying the atypical Mann romantic interlude.

black3This is not a film for the passive cinema-goer as it almost willfully rejects the standard mainframe of movie thriller semantics, opting instead for a stripped down, austere chase narrative that darts deftly from LA to the Asian theatre, a dizzying travelogue of pungent international locations, of state of the art technological techniques that may prove impenetrable to some. Fans of the Mann however will be wallowing in hog-heaven as it plays as a greatest hits package of the auteurs ascetic obsessions – process and perfectionism, a shadow play of vaporous terrorism and government guile, an integrated world ripe with corrupted transgressions. In that light I enjoyed this immensely although it takes its time to get cracking, slowly building a design  that burns brightly with the verisimilitude of Mann’s extraordinary focus on detail, and an almost obtuse disregard for those standard tropes of the standardized three act structure and climactic conclusion where all questions are answered. Hand-held, furtive and intrusive camerawork with an emphasis on long-held facial close-ups invites us to invest in the characters internal processing, dwarfed figurines set against impersonal architecture, enmeshed in a constant barrage of information amalgamated in the humid urban environment.

black4

I realize I constantly harp on about the visual qualities of a movie, sometimes at the hindrance of other crucial elements in cinematic storytelling but there is no way around this – this movie is absolutely stunning, no-one shoots more breath-taking urban helicopter vistas than Mann and his embrace of the new digital possibilities are delicious, his camerawork harnessing jewels of light scattered like precious stones against a black velvet backdrop. You can simply curl up and let the images flood over your ocular CPU, and on that front alone I’ll probably be making a second technical appraisal visit. It’s also very economic with the action sequences but when they arrive they are energetic and electrifying, mastering cause and effect within the cinematic space, the international urban environment infected with metaphors of seeing and observation from advertising billboards to glittering stock market logarithms, the globalized economy reduced to an intangible confection of zeros and ones.

hatThe weak link in the key chain however is Hemsworth. Although his rather stodgy characterization deepens as the plot accelerates (and it’s never fully convincing that this information era impresario is also a master of close quarter combat despite his stretch in the big-house) he simply doesn’t have the screen caliber of Will Graham or Vincent Hanna in the pantheon of Mann’s acetic archetypes, and the furtive romance with Wei (with strong echoes of the Gong Li & Colin Farrell’s doomed tryst in Miami Vice) doesn’t catch fire. As usual a new film from a celebrated auteur has resulted in a few compelling career retrospectives and revisits of their strongest work, alongside the recent 4K Blu-Ray restoration of Thief which is an absolutely essential score. In any case for us acolytes its wonderful to have another addition to the Michael Mann manifesto, another text to discuss, deconstruct and interrogate in comparison to his other films, another abstract addendum of its age;

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