OK I'll admit I had a real hard time tracking down the movies from the best foreign language category so I skipped it... I'm a failure. There are you happy now. Also I fucked off best original song and the shorts, if you care it'll take you ten minutes a piece, so that's on you. So here presented in alphabetical order are this years contenders...
Nominations: Best Original Score; John Williams
Point One: John Williams is nominated twice in the same category for two Spielberg pictures. Point Two: This film hasn't received a nomination for Best Animated Feature primarily, it seems, because the Academy doesn't consider motion capture proper animation, I understand that but the academy completely overlook Andy Serkis' performance in The Lord Of The Rings because it doesn't consider motion-capture as real acting either... make a fucking decision on this because otherwise a lot of great work in the coming years will be cruelly overlooked. Right so here is my review of the movie. HOLY FUCK! Spielberg and Jackson working together on a film scripted by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Steven Moffat... Do I even need to explain why that's awesome? Its like the film-making version of the Avengers. This film sits square in the middle of a massive Venn Diagram of things and people I fucking love to pieces. So obviously I was fully prepared to hate it, this is a learned response to things I love happening called 'Phantom Menace Syndrome'. I'm fully expecting The Avengers to suck balls. I hope it doesn't but I'm ready for the disappointment. So allow me to express the giddy delight I felt watching Tintin with the following word... SQUEEEEEEEEEEE! I know that's not even a real word but I've got nothing else. There's a huge amount of affection on display here for Herge's original works. It's obvious right from the off that this was a labour of love for all involved as the intrepid duo of Tintin and Snowy set of on a epic quest which proves them to be heroes of the finest calibre, despite the fact that within the first ten minutes Tintin commits a straight up B&E. One of the wonders of this film and the way it was made is the fact that a performance can be captured without it being hung up on the actors appearance. As such Simon Pegg and Nick Frost get to play the identical Thompson Twins and we get the extra special treat of Daniel Craig as a bearded and bespectacled academic. The plot is a classic ripping yarn in which Tintin is heroic, Haddock is drunk and Snowy is the greatest dog in the history of fiction. Idiot henchmen abound and a rip-roaring globe spanning adventure. Also they let Jackson slip in a Brain-dead reference. This is one of the best films I've seen during this, it's awesome the action is paced perfectly, it's just an absolute joy from start to finish.
Nominations: Best Actress; Glenn Close, Best Supporting Actress; Janet McTeer, Best Achievement in Make-Up
Glenn Close is playing a dude in this... I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a dude or a woman pretending to be a dude though... and Kick Ass is in it as well. Glenn Close is playing a woman pretending to be a woman, and so is Janet McTeer. Was this common enough in Victorian era Dublin that transvestites just kept running into one another? I'm not going to lie this is an exceptionally grim film filled with consumption and what not however the two central transvestitic performances are spell-binding to watch here, both of them portray people who've spent so long being disguised that they've forgotten who they once were but in completely different ways. As any film that shares a name with a lead character is bound to be this movie is much more of character study than anything else. As far as character studies go though this is a fantastic success. I've never really been a fan of Glenn Close but in this she is something of a revelation, she is so completely believable as a sad tired man that it is easy to forget that the character is in fact a woman and really that is exactly what is required by the role. I strongly recommend giving this a watch, it'll surprise you in many ways and that alone is worth the two hours it demands from you in return.
Nominations: Best Achievement in Costume Design
So this movie has the basic premise that Shakespeare didn't write his own plays. So right from the start we can file this movie in the 'Just Fuck Right Off' box. This ridiculous idea is entirely based on the idea that no-one man could have possibly written all of those plays, so I'm guessing Pratchett doesn't write his own books either or Alan Moore, or Neil Gaiman. This is just fucking ridiculous petulance. Look all of the plays were written by one man, that much is clear from the similarities in style and of course the literary fingerprinting. Basically it's an attempt by small and petty minds to tear down the great rather than elevate themselves. When this is engaged in by writers it jumps to a level of fuck-offery that just angers the living fuck out of me. Incidentally we know that the costumes, for which this film is nominated, are correct because we can check against the records of the times... the same records that tell us that Shakespeare was a fucking amazing writer. Oh hold they've just claimed that the Earl of Essex is the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth... I don't see a single flaw in that logic, except that there is no record of her slinking off for nine months. Seriously this movie is the most ridiculous excrement. Furthermore far too many of the actors involved in this should know better than to engage in this attack on the reputation of the bard Derek Jacobi is in this... what the actual fuck. I'm willing to accept that this is an interesting premise but they have chosen to show Shakespeare as a drunken illiterate sot, and for that there is no excuse. Look I really did try to relax into this and enjoy myself, however I am fiercely patriotic. Mainly because of my love for the english language, which is a love of Shakespeare and as such this film just felt like having someone stamp repeatedly on my soul. I declare John Orloff, the jealous vagabond who penned this slanderous little tale, a knave of the highest order and if I ever meet him I'll defecate in his hat.... but the costumes are very pretty.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director; Michel Havzanavicius, Best Actor; Jean Dujardin, Best Supporting Actress Berenice Bejo, Best Original Screenplay; Michel Havzanavicius, Best Achievement in Art Direction; Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Original Score
First things first, No, you don't get best original screenplay for a silent movie, everyone could just be saying 'BOOBS!' in a variety of different ways, and the plot is just a more melancholy version of Singing in the Rain. Best Original Score though is a definite this movie is nothing without the music, and it's a great film so by the transient property it's a great score that's maths bitches. This is not just an amazing film but it's an amazing achievement. How do you even learn how to make a black and white silent movie, on the job training's out unless you happen to have a time machine in which case it's kind of a frivolous thing to use it for. No the only way to make a movie is to spend a year or two relearning your trade from the ground up, and then to excel at it. This is a strong contender for best silent movie ever made... except maybe the Great Dictator but that's Chaplin it's competing against. This is much more intelligent, engaging and beautiful than I had assumed it was going to be. I'd call Jean Dujardin's performance oscar worthy if it wasn't for the fact that he's up against Gary Oldman. This movie is a real love-letter to a by-gone age it's filled with all of the right touches and references that let you know that this was made by someone who was truly in love with the genre. Weirdly it reminds me a lot of the work of Quentin Tarantino, it's reference laden, it's made by someone who is clearly a student of the genre. It's just missing all of the ultra-violence, but to be fair that would very much undermine the film. This isn't just a silent movie about silent movies, it's a silent movie made by silent movies. It exploits every little trick, cheat and cliché and it gets away with it in fine style. I genuinely didn't expect to like this I thought it was going to be all hipstery and pretentious but instead I'm already gutted that I didn't see it in a cinema, ideally with a live orchestra playing the score. This film loves films as much as I do and it does it better than me and that's why I love it.
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor; Christopher Plummer
I think his is supposed to be a comedy movie but despite having it's moments it rarely manages to grab hold of you and force out the funnies. It's very gentile and I could easily see this being someone's favourite film and I totally wouldn't judge them for it but it didn't draw me in. Christopher Plummer's portrayal of a of Ewan McGregor’s recently out gay father is a definite high-light of the piece. It may be that performances overshadowing of the rest of the film that makes it difficult to be drawn into the rest of the film. None of that is to detract from what is a genuinely well crafted and fairly beautiful film about the ins and outs of a young couples early relationship, in a way that shows Woody Allen for the mindless chump that he is, unfortunately I just wasn't really in the mood for this one and as such it failed to pull me in. More my fault than the films and it's not scampering out of here without a recommendation. I'll probably buy this on DVD and watch it as part of a less pressured time and I'll probably love it.
Better Life, A
Nominations: Best Actor; Demian Bichir
Americans treat Mexicans really badly... that's the entire point of this film. Not being an American and living in a country that ensures a minimum standard of living I find it difficult to relate and as such I found this film incredibly hard to get into. I'm not going to deny that the central performance is a sterling effort, the movie is well put together it's just that the subject is boring to me. America is like all the greatest empires built on the exploitation of an underclass one that it both needs and doesn't want. I didn't need to be hammered over the head with how bad it is. I've never been in favour of it and I don't need to be preached at, which is what this film felt like. That said it's competently made and there is a decent story at the heart of the entire production. I just don't think it would have garnered any nominations if it hadn't been pushing an agenda.
Nominations: Best Supporting Actress; Melissa McCarthy, Best Original Screenplay; Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
This is probably the only laugh out loud film I've watched as part of this whole thing. Obviously comedies are far to easy for the academy to ever consider for any of the proper awards so they get relegated to the writing awards. It's a really smart stupid comedy. The huge difference here is that the main characters are women... yeah Hollywood finally realised that the female half of the human race can be funny, I mean from a purely statistical stand-point not as funny as men but still capable of carrying a funny movie on their own. I don't think this is going to win any of the little yellow men but it is the best comedy of last year. The food poisoning and plane scenes are two of the finest comedic moments I've ever seen. This is a comedy classic that I'd put on a par with Anchorman if it was twenty minutes shorter and when that's the only criticism you have of a comedy then it's a pretty good comedy. It's laughs per minute ration is solid and the big laughs are big in exactly the right way.
Cat In Paris, A
Nominations: Best Animated Feature
As an Englishman I am obviously very much against the general idea of the French. However I have to admit that they are very good at animation and thrillers, so I think it was inevitable that I'd have a soft spot for a french animated thriller. So I wasn't surprised by how much I enjoyed this particular film. It's got a real sense of artistic style about it. It's cool in way that only the french can really be which is usually annoying, but when hidden behind the filter of cartoons it becomes significantly less so. This is a lovingly crafted romp over the rooftops of Paris, filled with murder, deceit, diamond thieves, gangsters and police chases... also there is a cat. Just wanted you to know that this film does deliver on the level of cat promised in the title, the cat is one of the best characters. Seriously though the cat is really funny. If you fancy spending an hour of your life in the company of a funny, charming little film filled with both thrills and spills you could do a lot worse than a A Cat In Paris.
Nominations: Best Animated Feature
Ostensibly a love story this is really a love letter to cuban music. Specifically the music that was coming out of Havana in the fifties, and it's a deserved love letter. Everything in the movie takes its cue from that musical vibe, the style of the animation, the locations ad even the central characters are extensions of the music that underpins the entire piece. That's not to detract from any of those elements if anything it's a compliment to the creative process behind this that it's managed to draw such a well rounded world from that one key element. As the music from that period exudes and easy charm and a deep love of life so to does this film, the mere act of watching this fills you with a simple joy that it's hard to explain. It's not often that I watch a film and start planning a holiday to the places shown... much less with an animation but in this case it happened within seconds of the film starting up, which made me exceptionally happy when the action moved to New York... because I was already booked to go there less than a week after seeing this. Look the truth is this is the Best Animated Feature of the year regardless of what the academy decides by it have it in your DVD collection, it's a film that your friends will thank you for introducing them to, and that's as fine a recommendation as I can offer.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director; Alexander Payne, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Actor; George Clooney, Best Adapted Screenplay; Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
First up Jim Rash, who is nominated for adapting the screenplay, is Dean Pelton in Community... so right there this movie deserves to win all of the oscars. On a more serious note watch Community. On a serious note devoted to the topic I'm supposed to be discussing this movie is a lovingly crafted piece of the film-makers art. It's at points funny and at other points heartbreaking. George Clooney's central performance is genuinely fantastic. The entire cast of this film do a great job and the films setting on the beautiful islands of Hawaii acts as a brilliant counterpoint to the wonderfully down subject matter of the film. The film manages to deal with so many separate issues all tied back to the central concept of family in a deep and meaningful way whilst simultaneously never abandoning a lightness of touch that allows the film to be enjoyed on a comedic level. It's a movie about a dark and depressing subject matter that still manages to be entertaining. I'd go into more detail but the film hangs on an early revelation and knowing it would stop you from enjoying it.
Nominations: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
This is the snub of the season. This movie is being handed awards and nominations all over the shop and yet the academy chose to almost ignore it... did Ryan Gosling sleep with the academies wife or something? OK, I am now about halfway through this film and have been unbable to type due to the fact that looking away from the screen during this kind of tension is impossible... I had to pause it to type this. This is genuinely one of the most gripping and taught films I have ever seen. Gosling plays lazy menace fantastically he literally oozes danger. In most scenes he barely speaks and yet he draws you in so much he's impossible not to watch. This is one of the best films I've watched for this whole thing and it's got a nomination for SOUND EDITING! Fuck the academy this movie is so good I find it offensive. A taught, cool and fundamentally fantastic piece of film making that you'd have to be an idiot not to love. Also Ron Fuck-Buggering Pearlman is in it. What more do you need?
Nominations: Best Film, Best Supporting Actor; Max Von Sydow
This touching tale of a strange young boy who's father dies during the little known terrorist attacks of September the 11th 2001. It seems strange to build an entire film around these events without explaining them fully, it's almost as if the film makers expect us all to have a working knowledge of this event. However moving past that presumption there is a heart warming little tale at the heart of this movie of a young boy and his mother attempting to come to terms with the life without a loved one. Sandra Bullock continues her unbroken streak of being incredibly good in more or less everything that she's ever appeared in. Unfortunately there is one thing to dislike about the film and I can explain why the critics have been divided on it and that is the very simple fact that the young child at the heart of this picture is singularly irritating. It's a forgiveable irritating though as it is the core character of a very conflicted child trying to deal with emotions and issues well beyond the grasp of the average adult let alone a child. That said he is really, really, really annoying. Furthermore the role that Max Von Sydow is being considered for is one of a mute. I'm not sure if that's easier or harder to do that actually speaking, but the fact that the mute communicates by the use of the written word takes a huge amount of burden off of him so on this occasion I'd have to view this as a cop-out. This is a well made film but whether or not it grabs you will be entirely down to whether you feel any connection with the central child, which I sadly did not.
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The
Nominations: Best Actress; Rooney Mara, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing.
OK... I'll admit this one is pretty high on the list of films I was really looking forward to for this project, first of all I want to be clear that whilst I think Daniel Craig is a great actor he's a terrible choice for the role, he is just not the Blomkvist of the books, also he's the only actor in this film who doesn't even try a swedish accent. Rooney Mara on the other hand is instantly impressive and it's her performance I was watching this for. Lisbeth Salander is one of the greatest fictional characters ever, a strong woman who is not a sex symbol and also not a victim which is a rarity in most fiction let alone the thriller genre. So let's cut through the bullshit on this one and get down to whether or not Rooney Mara plays the role well... the rape scene is nothing short of absolutely horrifying it is genuinely difficult to watch and that is the best compliment I can pay an actress in a piece like this. I know she's not going to win the Oscar for this but she fucking should, she is completely perfect in the role. This is a character I've spent three massive books in the company of and at no point did I notice any difference between her on paper and her as portrayed by Mara. As to the other nods this films grabbed I couldn't really talk to. I don't think there's anything massively exceptional about either the sound or the visual editing, although both are handled with more than competence. I will give props to the sound mixing though and also massive love for Trent Reznor's cover of 'The Immigrant Song'. Frankly I loved this film and I can't understand why it's not got the nod for the best adapted screenplay I'll never know. Might be overdoing this, but this movie is fantastic if you like thrillers this is a must-watch.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Nominations: Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Make-Up, Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Deserves the make-up and visual effects oscars for Voldemort's nose alone. This is one of the best Harry Potter films either that's enough for you or you're clearly a Slytherin. I'm actually going to keep this one brief. You come the eighth film in a series with a whole bunch of preconceptions already bundled up. If you're a Harry Potter fan then you know how you feel about this film if you're not then you give half a kneazle's quill what I have to say on the matter you filthy muggle... Go Ravenclaw!
On a side note... Fuck Twilight!
I know that's not in anyway related but I think it's kind of expected of Harry Potter fans to just be dickish to twi-hards.
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
I don't know if movie fatigue is a thing. So instead I need to find another reason why this story of troops fighting in Afghanistan and returning home injured, didn't interest me in the slightest. I suppose there is a fair amount of war fatigue to blame here. I mean Afghanistan started in 2001 that's eleven years, just to clarify that's longer than Friends was on air for and it's not half an hour twenty-two days a year it has been constant. As sad and wrong as it is to say this but I'm bored of it... I know that is terrible this a real conflict in which people are dying horribly, but on the other hand seriously wrap this shit up. I know it's hard and it's awful and that people are hurting but it's been a constant for over a third of my life and I've seen it covered from a million different angles in a million different ways. It's not the films fault it's a good documentary but it's about and fucking boring war that we just need to get done. Can't recommend this unless you are still enthralled by the conflict in Afghanistan in which case well done to you for being able to sustain you compassion for about four years longer than I managed.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Actress; Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress; Jessica Chastain
First up a confession, well two confessions, well three confessions, One, I love 1950s Americana, two I find the civil rights movement fascinating and three I find racism fucking hilarious. The first one of those doesn't require an explanation, we've all played Fallout. The second is a result of it being an incredibly important period in history that is so distant in time, geography and politics from my own life. The third is because it's funny to laugh at stupid people saying stupid things. As such this movie is firmly located in the nexus of a peculiar Venn diagram for me. I do have a real gripe with the fact that Hollywood always has to show us the Civil Rights movement through the eyes of a sympathetic white character but I'm putting that to one side for the purposes of focussing on the two performances that have gotten the nod. Viola Davis is flawless and her warmth is big part of what makes this film such uncomfortable viewing, and yet where some would have played to roll bitter Davis instead fills it with a wonderful warmth. Despite the aforementioned overlap of interests I didn't expect to like this film as much as I did. I haven't hated an on screen villain as much as Bryce Dallas Howard's Hilly Holbrook since Delores Umbridge, Emma Stone manages to believable as someone who is not so stunningly beautiful it makes me cry a bit, it's an incredible feat of acting talent to play uglier than you are without make-up. Also CJ from the West Wing is in this and that alone is awesome. Let me be clear this movie isn't just good, it's Shawshank good. It's got to be a shoe in for Best Film.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director; Martin Scorsese, Best Original Score; Howard Shore, Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Adapted Screenplay; Josh Logan, Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
I'm usually a big fan of the work of Mr Scorsese because I have a fully functioning brain, although the six attempts I just had at spelling functioning might disagree, however I approached this fil with a degree of trepidation. You see if I learnt anything from the casting of Robert De Niro in Rocky & Bullwinkle it's that prodigious talent at producing films in which limbs get removed does not necessarily translate into being good at producing charming childhood adventures. This film sadly provides more evidence of that. Ben Kingsley is in it but at no point does he show the spark of genius we all know he has. Sacha Baron Cohen also appears as one of the few bright points doing a voice which sounds incredibly like Scroobius Pip. Hit-Girl also appears but weirdly doesn't seem to be able to believably play a child... maybe it's because I love Kick-Ass and kept expecting her to fuck up someone's day. The version of the movie I had was actually a two part file and it helps me pin point the exact moment when this film got good and it's the half way point... that's halfway into a two hour movie, that's an hour of your life you don't need to waste. It's not that it's a bad film... no scratch that it's not that there's anything wrong with it, each individual component is well executed but it doesn't hang together. It's like when you try drinking a cup of tea whilst having sex, the individual components are good but it's difficult to combine them without getting hot tea on your crotch... wait where was I going with this. Look Hugo is enjoyable but it's far to easy to pull out exactly which bits are good because it lacks any real cohesion.
Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay; George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Williman
This movie like Margin Call makes it fairly clear that it's a travesty that the Academy doesn't have an award for best ensemble cast. This one is jam-packed with talent on a near insane level, Clooney, Gosling, Tomei, Hoffman, Giamatti. This taut political thriller oozes suspense with every single character being well drawn and believable. The script is excellent with Clooney pouring a fair helping of his own political ideologies into presidential candidate Mike Morris and frankly I agree with everything this man says... hooray for fictional presidents, always better than the real deal. This film is not about Clooney though, no the focus instead falls on the 'holy fuck should be nominated' performance of Ryan Gosling. This film is more or less a super-villain origin story. Have you ever wondered how the idealists that are first drawn to politics wind up turning into the insufferable inhuman cunts that we all loathe and yet weirdly never shoot repeatedly in the face. Well this film is the answer Gosling starts out as a young idealistic campaign guy (I don't care what they are actually called) and through his immersion in a sea of bastards turns into an evil manipulative Carl Rove style character. Now it's particularly interesting that the entire film is populated with democrats, the point it seems is that the ideologies and ideas floating on the surface of politics make very little difference to the murky underbelly lurking beneath. If you are a fan of taut and intelligent thrillers then I'd be remiss no to recommend this to you watch be enthralled and enjoy.
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
Cards on the table I fucking love this planet. I think it's a real spiffy planet, second best in the solar system and that's only because Saturn is so fucking pretty. As such I tend to be in favour of the environmentalism, we've only got one planet and all that jazz. In addition I don't fully understand why companies insist on raping the planet as it doesn't seem to make much sense as a business model. As such I found this documentary fascinating. I also find the Earth Liberation Front fascinating as well. For those of you who don't know the ELF were an 'eco-terrorist' (not sure I like or agree with than word) cell operating around the American North-West a couple of years ago now. Now there are a few things about these guys I admire their commitment and their passion. I don't agree with their tactics, a series of arson attacks, at all. However from this documentary it's pretty clear that most of the ELF no longer agree with what they did either. I'm going to step away from the issue and focus on how well this documentary is made. A great job is done of remaining impartial with interviews and footage providing candid and open reports from every side of the issue including former ELF members. It's a fine example of the documentarian's art and I'd heartily recommend that you watch it as it's an exceptional insight into a deep and complex issue.
Nominations: Best Actress; Meryl Streep, Best Achievement in Make-Up
(Heads up, I''m not even going to try to review this instead I'm just going to use this as an opportunity to make cheap cracks about Thatcher.)
Spoiler Alert! Thatcher lives, which is thoroughly disappointing. This movie opens with Thatcher bemoaning the price of milk, oh the irony. Hold on. Thatcher's dad is Ser Jorah Mormont, a man exiled from Westoros for selling people to slavers, actually, that does make sense. Oh and young Dennis is played by Viserys Targaryen, the mad beggar king... I really hope the casting director knew what they were doing here. Incidentally both of those guys have been in Doctor Who... just thought I'd drop a knowledge bomb. It's very disturbing to see Mark Thatcher being shown as a child, I'm guessing he spent his spare time raiding the schools tuck shop to fund small coups in and around Finchley. OK I've got to admit the make up is good they've managed to show several ages of the Thatcher creature that all seem as if taken from the same spectrum. Meryl Streep does a great job of portraying an elderly, doddering woman who I feel absolutely no sympathy for and I want dead. It's not an easy task. I am particularly surprised that they chose not to show Thatcher originally hatching, or her eating her siblings while still in the nest, but they still make the reptilian old cunt seem very much a the bitch that she was. Oh there's the police beating up miners who thought that Thatcher would kill the coal mining industry... how wrong they were. It's not often I watch a movie and root for the terrorists and these ones aren't even being played by Alan Rickman. I'd rather watch Downfall than this, its got a much more sympathetic protagonist. OK I'm done. Oh, Giles is in this and he's pretty good.
Nominations: Best Achievement in Costume Design
Well it's Jane Eyre. I actually like the works of the wonderful Bronte Sisters, despite having a Y chromosome, however it's very difficult to review any film adaptation of any of the classics. Is the story any good? Of course it bloody is it's Jane Eyre. Is the acting good? Well it's british actors in roles they've been forced to study since childhood so of course it is. Is the dialogue good? It was written by Charlotte Fuckin' Bronte so of course it is. As to the costuming which has earned this film it's nod... well it's a british period piece we've still got the original clothes from this period in storage. British productions of the classics are always of a high standard because putting them together is incredibly easy. Oh yep, Judy Dench just turned up, that's in the rules. This is a good adaptation but it's easy to do good adaptations of this source material. What it isn't is searingly original or dazzlingly well made, it's just good and competent, there's nothing wrong with being these things of course. It is difficult to make a well worn story seem fresh... difficult but not impossible the best version of Romeo and Juliet for the screen had car chases, gunfights and drugs. Not that I was expecting that from this. What I was expecting is what I got and incredibly well crafted adaptation of a classic story. It's a grand film and you could do a lot worse than fill you're time with it... although you'd be better served by just reading Jane Eyre.
Nominations: Best Animated Feature
Well Kung Fu Panda is back and once again it is a much better film than it has any right to be, seriously Gary Oldman is in this. There's nothing particularly surprising here it's in pretty much standard sequel territory, a terrible evil has arisen and the Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five are once again called upon to do battle and save the day and stuff. That said this movie, much like it's predecessor, manages to cut straight through the cynic in me. It's probably the funniest of the animated offerings in this years clutch and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone but beyond that there's not much to say really, I remain a big fan of the way these films switch to whatever style of animation is right for the scene and I'm again thoroughly impressed by the amount of big name talent on display so watch this it's a blast and you'll enjoy every minute but don't expect anything life-changing.
Nominations: Best Original Screenplay; J.C. Chandor
A film that takes us inside the world of the horrifying race of lizard men that control the world of money is not a film I was expecting to enjoy but this film is gripping. It's the completely fictional story of how Lehman Brothers went tits up... so it's about a fictional unnamed firm spiralling into the fuck-jar in more or less the exact same way as Lehman Brothers. It's set over the course of a single 24 hour period in which starting with Spock/Sylar working out that something is very wrong with the companies books and ending with the beginning of total financial collapse. The real trick to this is the way it shows these characters as human beings. There are maybe three characters from a cast of about twelve who are objectionable amoral chuzzle-cunts everyone else is ably played as human beings who just got in massively over their heads. I can see why this didn't get any acting nods as the cast is to sprawling and talented to single out anyone perfromance, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto I could go on but I can't remember... Paul Bettany! How the fuck did I I forget Bettany. It's particularly fun to watch this film and pretend that Bettany is playing Barney Stintson and this is what he gets up to at work all day. Highly gripping and more than capable of grabbing the little golden man.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director; Woody Allen, Best Original Screenplay; Woody Allen, Best Achievement in Art Direction
Fuck... When I started this I forgot there was a Woody Allen film in the mix. Fuck Woody Allen. Everyone who sites him as an influence shows no hint of his work in anything they do. I'm not saying that his work is pretentious... just that anyone who likes his work is. I wouldn't mind if he'd maintained the same level of 'meh' over the years but he's been sliding downhill for years. Oh fuck why is Martin Sheen doing a Woody Allen impression. Oh... and Owen Wilson is in this. Owen Wilson has been in two films with Bill Murray and it's the Woody Allen one that gets the Oscar nod. Fuck me Carla Bruni is in this? Just fuck off, seriously Allen just fuck fucking off. I'm only fifteen minutes in I already would've walked out if I wasn't committed to this project. OK there's some sort of bollocks time travel thing happening which is just an excuse for Allen to show how much he loves Hemingway... This movie is more or less hipster-catnip. This movie is at best a novelty, at worst it's the worst kind of nostalgic twaddle. Look if your the kind of person who loves Woody Allen you're probably already a hipster anyway so you could do a lot worse than this I suppose but try pulling your head out of your arse and enjoying a real comedy. Anchorman is real comedy, if a film doesn't make you laugh so hard it causes you some form of physical damage then it wasn't a good comedy, that is my metric for comedy and this film, like all of Woody Allen's work, fails utterly. In conclusion fuck Woody Allen and fuck you if you like him, you pretentious lackwit.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Actor; Brad Pitt, Best Supporting Actor; Jonah Hill, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay; Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, Stan Chervin
Brad Pitt deserves an Oscar. That statement I make before watching this film. I make it on the grounds of Seven, Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club. Actually I just looked up Twelve Monkeys and he was nominated for best supporting and lost to Kevin Spacey in the Usual Suspects and if you think that's wrong please don't let the door mercilessly slam on your genitals whilst you fuck off. It tells us the story of how a ridiculously handsome baseball team manager decided to ignore conventional wisdom and use the wild maths theories of the fat one from Superbad to make a mark on baseball. Unfortunately it lacks a real emotional punch because they failed to win the World Cup of Baseball... I'll be honest at this point, rounders is a ridiculous sport to turn into a national past-time. The problem is not caring about the game means that it's upshot, a change in the way the game works resulting in a different team entirely breaking a near hundred year curse, does little for me. Look, this movie is great, it's a fantastic telling of an fascinating true story but it's not Oscar worthy. The editing, weirdly is. There are moments in this film that hang on split second cuts to funnel the action from point to point and it does so fantastically. This movie is the one that gets all of the nods but none of the glory. It might squeak Best Adapted Screenplay. However if Jonah Hill doesn't win best supporting then I'll be forced into some type of drastic action, because he is beyond good, he plays a difficult role with aplomb and charm, every moment he is on screen is filled with humour and warmth. The fact that his character isn't just crucial to the plot but in fact is the plot just makes it all the more impressive. Hill and Pitt have a natural on screen chemistry and they alone make this a picture worth seeing. Watch enjoy but don't get your hopes your too high.
My Week With Marilyn
Nominations: Best Actress; Michelle Williams, Best Supporting Actor; Kenneth Branagh
Let's get the obvious out of the way here the nominated actors are playing Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier... those are difficult roles. Sidenote... Emma 'Hermione' Watson is in this, so it is possible that someone will show-up Marilyn Monroe. Hold on, the main character is kissing Hermione... you get your hands off her... Does Ron know about this? Alright I'll stop with the Potter references now but I go a bit daffy where Hermione's concerned. The central premise is that of the incredibly different worlds of the British and American film production. Whilst the British system relied on battle hardened actors who'd worked there way up through the theatre system represented here by Branagh as Olivier, a role the old RSC hand is certainly a good choice for, where as Marilyn represents Hollywood's much looser and less formal system. As the central character says, ones a great actor who wants to be a film-star and the other was a film-star who wants to be a great actor. That central conflict is a fantastic heart to the story. As with everything that features Marilyn Monroe at the heart of it, this is essentially a love story, but being in love with Marilyn is like being a butterfly with a passion for tornadoes. This is a wonderful film and I give it a hearty recommendation.
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
This 'documentary' is a tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch. Thanks to IMDb for supplying that information because no-one does any fucking talking. One of the first rules of documentary film making is that you don't assume any prior knowledge on the audiences part. This movie assumed straight off the bat that I knew who Pina Bausch was, provided no translation for the audio-clips of people speaking German, Russian, French etc. despite the production starting with an acknowledgement in English. This is basically one hour and forty minutes of contemporary dance... if that interests you then maybe you'll like this... I don't and I didn't. Although on a side-note it is one of the few films that I can kind of see the justification for using 3D in.
Nominations: Best Animated Feature
The Best Animated Feature category is providing my light-relief from the relatively heavy going of this marathon month of movies. The first two Shrek films were hilarious comedy romps through the many incongruities of the fairy tale realm. I'll admit I've not seen the two more recent offerings but I'm more than willing to give this film a chance. I'll admit it's moderately funny and it's got the right amount of thrills and spills along with adorably crafter characters and heaps of heart. What it doesn't have is that certain spark that great animated films do. What I'm saying here is that while this move is Shrek-ish enough to be an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half it's no Shrek. On the other hand it's the most action packed thing Banderas has ever done without Rodriguez. I recommend giving it a watch but don't expect anything to great, just a good bit of fun.
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
When a child dies it's rare that only one life is lost. The case of the tragic deaths of Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers is an extreme example of this. Not only did these deaths ruin the lives of the their family, friends and the wider community but also of three young men. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is, aptly enough, the third documentary about the case and the wrongful conviction of Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin. I'm not normally one for leaping to a conclusion over a complicated legal issue based on a single documentary, however it becomes startlingly clear very quickly into this film that the original police investigation was very flawed. Furthermore some of the leading campaigners for the release of the West Memphis 3 are from among the families of the victims. The story is told in a remarkably balanced way that is made all the more gripping by the fact that this group of film makers have been following the case since the original case back in 1993. It's one of the rare occasions where the mere act of telling a story has become the story. Many of the people involved in the campaign to get these young men's conviction overturned were alerted to the case by the first Paradise Lost documentary. That factor alone is probably going to grab it the statuette. The fact that it's a gripping and well told tale make it completely acceptable to me that this is bound to happen.
I'd heard really bad things about this one so I went in with some trepidation. I was expecting a shoddy and half baked 'comedy' that relied heavily on the fact that Johnny Depp was voicing the lead. What I didn't expect was a dark and twisted take on the classic animations 'heroic journey' trope. Not only is every character in this voiced perfectly but also brought to life with an ugliness that is genuinely fantastic. It achieves that rare trick of slipping in a couple of jokes and references that will sail clean over the heads of the younglings whilst still being filled with numerous laughs for all ages. I enjoyed every creepy and bizarre aspect of the entire production from talking road-kill to Bill Nighy as a terrifying snake gun-slinger. The entire vibe that this film throws off is insanely reminiscent of the classic Oddworld games, and that alone makes it a fantastic way to fill an hour or two of your life... unless of course you don't like the Oddworld games in which case I'll need your name and address so I can punch you in the testicles.
Nominations: Best Achievement In Visual Effects
That's right the movie adaptation of Rock-Em, Sock-Em Robots starring Wolverine got nominated for an academy award... I was going to make a joke about how my own movie based on Battleship was cruelly overlooked and then I remembered that that is an actual thing. That's right reality has now gotten more ridiculous than the bullshit I can invent. Anyway this is just up for a visual effects award so it's just about how good the robots look... and the answer is fucking shiny and incredibly realistic. OK I've watched this movie for a bit now and I have to admit it's actually genuinely entertaining... 'Why isn't this a real sport?' entertaining. Also there is one of those touching father son stories at the heart of this that gets straight through the shield of cynicism of all children of divorce. If you want to watch giant CGI robots battering each other this is way better than Transformers in any incarnation.
Nominations: Best Achievement In Visual Effects
I'm glad that this movie is up for a visual effects oscar because the alternative is that they use real apes for this and if they had apes this intelligent we'd be screwed. I'm going to get a little serious here... Yes I saved up my seriousness for the movie about hyper-intelligent apes. The POTA movies have been around as a series for some time the original gave rise to 4 sequels and a television series, then there was the worst reboot ever and now we have a prequel to the original. So where does this one fit on the scale of ape epicness? It's not as good as the classic original but then I can only name about fifty or so movies that are. What I would say though is that this one does manage to tap into the primal fear that all humans have of losing our position and being forced back down the food chain. Other than our intelligence we don't really have that much over the rest of the animal kingdom. We have no claws, no built in armour and we aren't as strong as most of our primate cousins either. The idea of the intellectual playing field being levelled scares us... and rightly so but the real thing that underpins the appeal of POTA is that maybe we'd deserve it. This film more than any other in the franchise explores that aspect of the mythos and it does so without resorting to comical stereotypes... well except Draco Malfoy as chief ape torturer. This movie is an intelligent and energetic sci-fi and well worth a watch. However the apes are a little to obviously CGI, although it is counterbalanced by the performance of Andy Serkis as lead ape. Not sure this deserves this particular oscar but it does deserve a watch.
Nominations: Best Original Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, Best Film in a Foreign Language
I think its fair to state that I don't speak Persian, as such it is nigh on impossible to assess whether or not this film is a fair contender for the best original screenplay oscar. That said the film is a superb insight into an alien culture through the medium of a fantastic story. As a western viewer it's fantastic to see a picture made in Iran for an Iranian audience, I've remained deliberately ignorant of Iranian culture because I mistrust western-media portrayals of the middle east. This movie tells a simple story with complex characters. The story, of a family being rent apart by forces outside of their control, is well told and offers a fascinating insight into an alien culture. Here we get fascinating glimpses at Iranian, culture, religious issues, it's criminal and civil legal system, all the while being driven forward by the central engine that is the story itself, and that story is an incredibly gripping tale. It's not often that a film makes me intrigued by the cinematic output of an entire nation, but if this is the quality of the film they are producing then I'd happily watch many more.
Nominations: Best Actor; Gary Oldman, Best Adapted Screenplay; Bridget O'Conner & Peter Straughn, Best Original Score: Alberto Iglesias
Does Gary Oldman deserve a Best Actor Oscar? Of course he does... he deserves it for every thing he's ever done, does he deserve it for this? Well it's difficult to say. His performance in this movie is understated to the point of non-existence. However that in itself is an incredible feat. Oldman is playing a former spy, and he plays him as a nothing man, someone who has been so stripped of identity by the constant deception that he has nearly ceased to exist. It's nothing short of remarkable that Oldman is such a good actor that he can almost cease to exist and yet still be the fascinatinmg focal point of this film. This is fantastically counterpointed at the films climax when the in workings of Oldman's performance come to the fore. So yes I'd have to argue that once again Oldman deserves an Oscar, and this time he might actually get one. This film also excels as a portrayal of England, the England of dreary rainy Sunday afternoons. I've not read the original novel nor have I seen the series starring Alec Guinness so I can't comment on it's credibility as an adaptation but as a screenplay it's very hard to find flaw with the wonderfully well placed scripting and the brilliant dialogue. Also of note is the role that Benedict Cumberbatch should have picked up a best supporting actor nod for, he comfortably holds his own opposite a Gary Oldman at the height of his powers. I've got to finish up by saying I fucking loved this film and if you don't you're a moron.
Nominations: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Bes Achievement in Visual Effects
No. I saw this at the cinema and I flat-out refuse to watch it a second time it is pure god awful trash, I'd rather cut my eyes out than watch this again. It's just very, very bad. Look, I'm not even going to waste time finding the poster... This movie just like everything Michael Bay has ever done can fuck off as far as possible. If you want to watch a good transformers movie watch the original animated movie from the eighties.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director; Terrence Malick, Best Achievement in Cinematography
From the get-go this is a beautiful film, the opening sequence being one of the most incredibly calming things I've ever seen. In fact if I had to sum The Tree Of Life's opening up in a single word I'd have to opt for 'still' and this film has Sean 'Fucking Nut-job' Penn in it so that's a little surprising. The Cinematography nod is difficult to get on board with, it's hard to tell whether the shots in this movie are deliberately obtuse or if the camera-man was constantly pissed, and yet strangely the entire film seems more like an exercise in cinematography than a film. The dialogue is beyond scant, which allows the viewer to spend a lot of time drawing on the purely physical performances that are by and large phenomenal. However I have to say the movie utterly fails because I can't tell you whether or not I liked it. I genuinely spent most of the time I was watching this oscillating wildly between starting to love it and starting to hate it, meaning that my final impression is incredibly middle of the road. It also drags... it drags severely, it's not so much a film as something to put on in the background whilst you do something else. I've written all of this in the first twenty minutes... I feel like I've been here for hours... I hit the thirty minute mark and there is a god-damn plesiosaur in this film. This movie is equal parts Attenborough, Wonders of The Universe and Walking With Dinosaurs... and it has Brad Pitt. Has someone been putting acid in my meth? OK I think this film is about man's relationship with god... Now as an atheist I'm actually willing to allow that this is an interesting philosophical area, but I'm not totally sure that that's what's going on. Look I'm going to stop writing until I've finished watching this... OK I'm at an hour and a half and it turns out all that other stuff was pre-amble to Brad Pitt being a terrible father. So here's the deal this movie has got a serious movie about a young boys relationship with his father but it doesn't start until the forty minute mark. It's a very good movie but it makes the opening exceedingly baffling. I still don't know whether I like this or not... I'd recommend giving it a watch just for novelty value though. I don't see it picking up any of the Oscars though.
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
A great way to make sure that no-one ever sees your movie is to give it the exact same name as a 1969 John Wayne classic thus making it nearly impossible to track down a copy of it. Seriously after you reach the 5th page of Google results it's time to give up. It especially doesn't help when it's a one word title which when combined with the year it was made yields nothing but sport results.
Nominations: Best Achievement in Costume Design.
This one was reviewed for me by the internet. There is not a single torrent anywhere to be found... that is how little of a shit the world at large gives about this film. Fuck you Madonna.
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor; Nick Nolte
I wasn't expecting much from a movie with Kurt Angle in it... not because of any high-faluting views on wrestlers turned actors, in my opinion the Rock is a God-King (the last time anyone had that much charisma they invaded Poland), but because Kurt Angle sucks However this movie is much more complex than I thought it would be, it uses the back drop of a fictitious MMA tournament to explore the issues surrounding a fractured family. The two leads, Joel Edgarton and Tom 'BANE!' Hardy, portray estranged brothers whilst Nick Nolte chomps through the scenery as their recovering alcoholic of a father. There is a lot of Rocky about this film, but it's a good Rocky like Rocky 1, 3, 4 (and yes that is the official list of good Rocky films) and Rocky wasn't really about boxing it was about under-dogs, never giving up and punching communists and this film is really about healing, forgiveness and family. I'd highly recommend this it's pretty awesome. It's portrayal of one of the most bad-ass sports in existence is pretty spot-on, well they use the octagon ring which isn't used any more but it's forgiveable because they should totally bring back the octagon. It's not Rocky but then MMA isn't boxing, but within ten years MMA will be bigger than boxing and this movie will be considered a classic, so get in there now and then you can be all hipster about it later.
Nominations: Best Film, Best Original Score; John Williams, Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Best Achievement In Sound Mixing
Adapted from the hit play the nominations alone show that this film should certainly be a treat for the eyes and ears. This was the first film I watched as part of this project and I must admit I was eager to see Spielberg's first crack at portraying the land I love. From the very first shot it's easy to see where the awards for visual appearance have come from. Spielberg has managed to capture the majesty of the English Countryside in a way that almost exactly matches my own rose tinted view. Equally John Williams continues to live up to the reputation that he's been building since Star Wars. A summary of the plot, a farmer buys a horse at auction for the express purpose of annoying Remus Lupin. The horse and the farmers son form a special bond but sadly due to financial and international political circumstances the horse has to be sold to Loki, who for some reason is in the British Cavalry and serving directly under Sherlock. WAR! I don't really need to flesh that out, do I? This is a WWI movie so a series of horrifying war sequences follow. It's been done before of course in Black Beauty but the use of the horse as a narrative device works fantastically giving a unique and changeable perspective of the conflicts around it. I'd like to give significant props to Spielberg for managing to make a war film with very little on screen death... well little given the subject matter. That's not to say this film glosses over the horrors of war but rather that it uses the same subtlety and suggestion that usually typifies a stage production, which is were this film has it's roots. Whilst this film is filled with wonderful performances the nature of the story means it's far to much of an ensemble to garner any acting nods from the academy and rightly so.