Saturday, 10 December 2016

OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES


Still totally feeling this franchise. Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were both fine examples of blockbuster filmmaking, and I've no particular reason to doubt that War for the Planet of the Apes is going to fall significantly short of their high standards. If I'm not exactly super-stoked by the above trailer and first look, I'll choose to recall my similarly lukewarm response to trailers for this film's two predecessors, and promptly calm the fuck down. Out in North America and the British Isles both on the 14th of July.

KANSAS CITY FILM CRITICS CIRCLE'S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016


The Kansas City Film Critics Circle won't reveal its 2016 award winners until the 18th of December, but until then, you can mull over their top ten films of the year. It's the only slate of nominees announced by the circle, who'll otherwise simply declare winners for the remainder of their categories. With the same films turning up near everywhere so far this season up top, it's interesting to note the differences among the apparent filler entries, as you'll see below...

Best Film
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Jackie
La La Land
The Lobster
Loving
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Swiss Army Man

Friday, 9 December 2016

2016 SAN FRANCISCO FILM CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD NOMINATIONS


Don't ask me how this happened. Eight nominations apiece from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for big Oscar favourites and current critical hits Arrival, Moonlight and La La Land... absent Emma Stone in Best Actress. Complacency? Backlash? Or just a matter of taste? Not a matter that I can comprehend, considering that Stone was far and away my favourite thing about La La Land, but hey. Winners will be announced on the 11th of December - two days away, on the same day as the BFCA awards ceremony. Guess which one's gonna yield better results. Guess.

Best Picture
Arrival
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Director
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Jeff Nichols (Loving)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Best Actress
Amy Adams (Arrival)
Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Joel Edgerton (Loving)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Tom Hanks (Sully)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis (Fences)
Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women)
Lily Gladstone (Certain Women)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash)
Ben Foster (Hell or High Water)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Screenplay, Original
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)

Best Screenplay, Adapted
David Birke (Elle)
Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)
Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Jeong Seo Gyeong and Park Chan Wook (The Handmaiden)
August Wilson (Fences)

Best Cinematography
Stephane Fontaine (Jackie)
James Laxton (Moonlight)
Rodrigo Prieto (Silence)
Linus Sandgren (La La Land)
Bradford Young (Arrival)

Best Film Editing
Tom Cross (La La Land)
Jennifer Lame (Manchester by the Sea)
Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders (Moonlight)
Jake Roberts (Hell or High Water)
Joe Walker (Arrival)

Best Production Design
Craig Lathrop (The Witch)
Jean Rabasse (Jackie)
Ryu Seong Hee (The Handmaiden)
Patrice Vermette (Arrival)
David Wasco (La La Land)

Best Original Score
Nicholas Britell (Moonlight)
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (Hell or High Water)
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)
Johann Johannsson (Jackie)
Mica Levi (Jackie)

Best Animated Feature
Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Documentary
13th
Cameraperson
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
O.J.: Made in America

Best Foreign Language Picture
ELle
The Handmaiden
Neruda
The Salesman
Toni Erdmann

Special Citation
The Fits
Krisha
Pushing Dead

REVIEW - BLEED FOR THIS (BEN YOUNGER)


I don't even like boxing movies. It's not much use having a bias against any particular genre of movie when you put so much time and effort into studying the global industry, but it's a fairly constant feature of the boxing movie that it just doesn't work for me. There are exceptions, naturally, to this rule, but they're exceptions for a reason - they don't slavishly adhere to the restrictive, regressive cliches upon which this genre considers itself so necessarily, bafflingly reliant. So sure, I gave Bleed for This a go, all in the pursuit of 'study.' It's about a white, heterosexual, male douchebag who suffers a debilitating setback in his career and must engage in the struggle of his life to reacquire the phenomenal success to which he considers himself entitled, only now with a newfound mental fortitude to equal his physical fortitude. More like the struggle of my life. You see now why I don't like boxing movies? Much of Bleed for This seems designed around opportunities for Miles Teller to get his body out, which is just as well because it distracts from his face. Aaron Eckhart shows up with a side-full of ham and a shirt-full of cushion - seriously, if Martin Lawrence can get the fat suit thing right, Aaron Eckhart must surely be capable of something better than The Amazing Immovable Torso and a generous dusting of turmeric to make his receding hairline look plausible (it doesn't, obviously, but I bet he smelt delicious). The most spoken single word of dialogue in the film is 'Providence,' presumably in an attempt to excuse the Boston stereotypes by making them Providence stereotypes instead, which is a bit like distinguishing between Diet Coke and watered-down dirt - they have different names, but are they actually different things? The best thing about Bleed for This is when George Michael's song 'Monkey' crops up on the soundtrack; the worst thing is that it crops up as though the sound extrudes from a stripper's vagina. Bleed for this indeed.

U.S. TRAILER FOR LADY MACBETH


Lady Macbeth is only William Oldroyd's fourth feature, and his first in feature length, but it's garnering reviews on the festival circuit that even the most established filmmakers desire. With a prime Platform comp slot at TIFF, where it premiered, an appearance at LFF, and award-winning bows at both San Sebastian and Zurich film festivals, this violent, female-fronted period drama is on track to mark one of 2017's biggest breakthroughs for its director and lead Florence Pugh; opening in the US on the 2nd of June, so they're getting out here early with this trailer!

REVIEW - YOUR NAME. (SHINKAI MAKOTO)


A blazing comet descends to Earth in the form of one of cinema's brightest talents in Your Name., Shinkai Makoto's latest dazzling display of aesthetic and cultural sublimity. In its thematic concerns, its narrative structure, and its artistic expression, this film represents an apex in the articulation of the contemporary social and cultural interests of Japan's youth, its every feature cut from the cloth of experience. This is an insider's perspective on these interests, here transmogrified into a most singular work of art (set against anything outside of Shinkai's own canon) that has already begun to redefine that which it reflects. In the process of being consumed - and there are few films so eager for, nor so receptive to the act of consumption - Your Name. is fulfilling the mandate of the greatest art, taking from society no more than it is prepared to offer in exchange. Shinkai develops a macro vision suffused with infinite micro aspects, each and all congruous to one another, producing a film that seems boundlessly rich in detail. And it never repels the interrogation of an active, interested mind, indeed only encouraging further dialogue between viewer and their viewing object - specifically, demanding and (likely) rewarding repeat viewing sessions. And all with such majesty! On the sonic side, Radwimps' song soundtrack may ultimately repel some, if all else fails, but it's solid J-Pop and perfect for the film; on the visual side, Shinkai asserts once again that his eye is among the finest in all of world cinema, and works for the first time with another world-class artist, animator Ando Masashi. Your Name. is a wondrously collaborative work, between filmmakers, the culture to which they're so invaluably contributing, and each of us who has the privilege of beholding it.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

REVIEW - JEAN OF THE JONESES (STELLA MEGHIE)


And this is coming from someone who'd bend over backwards to defend filmmakers like Stella Meghie. Alas, the evidence suggests that her capabilities in this field of employment are limited, and not merely by budget. Jean of the Joneses is the kind of indie film I'd gladly champion, were it worth the effort. It's not, but nor is it worth the effort to smack it down, so here comes a literally effortless review. Jean Jones is a young, headstrong, entitled writer with a book deal that's working out far cosier for her than for her publishers. She's having relationship woes, not only with boyfriends but with her extended family, each of whose particular character is slowly strangling the others. Jean is played by Taylor Paige, whose resemblance to Azealia Banks only makes her more insufferable. Principal among her problems is that Paige isn't much of an actor, but then the standard of performance ranges so greatly through Jean of the Joneses that she hardly sticks out. A man turns up on her grandmother's doorstep and promptly suffers cardiac arrest and dies before Jean's own eyes - it transpires that he is her grandfather, and this revelation triggers a whole heap of the same as Jean unpicks her family's past and teases out the present secrets of her mother, her aunts and her grandmother. It's simple stuff whose predictability is not mitigated by Meghie's refreshing perspective, both from and upon a mini-community of black American women, nor the film's occasional resemblance to the narratives of classic, femme-focused fiction. Rudimentary staging drains the film of drama, overworked dialogue accentuates the artificiality, lazy editing sucks the life out of every scene, and a horrible jazz soundtrack makes the whole thing feel like it was filmed in an elevator. I'd love to defend Stella Meghie, and I hope to have future opportunities to do just that, but Jean of the Joneses represents no such opportunity, and we'll leave it there.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

OSCAR DOCUMENTARY RACE IS DOWN TO 15 FILMS


Recent years have seen an increase in the general acclaim and familiarity of the films on Oscar's Best Documentary radar, at the level of award winners, nominees, and contenders on the 15-strong shortlists. This year's 15 are perhaps the pinnacle of that trend thus far, with virtually every one of these titles looking like probable nominees. Alas, only five of them will make the cut, and we'll find out which five on the 24th of January. Until then, you'll just have to guess...

13th
Cameraperson
Command and Control
The Eagle Huntress
Fire at Sea
Gleason
Hooligan Sparrow
I Am Not Your Negro
The Ivory Game
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
Tower
Weiner
The Witness
Zero Days

REVIEW - THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (NICOLAS PESCE)


Nicolas Pesce takes us through the eyes of a young woman into the disturbed mind within, yet with cool detachment and a beguiling attentiveness to style, he never lets us actually see through those eyes. The hostility of an unforgiving world is barely glimpsed, yet its oppression keenly noted in Pesce's dispassionate critique of an American society that he regards as neglectful, to distressing effect. The Eyes of My Mother is unsettling, uncomfortable horror, but even its most audacious strides into torture-porn territory are excusable given this context. Pesce's focus is not on the mechanics of violence but on the consequences and the implications of it, and this journey into the mind thus encourages further psychological inquiry, now into the impetus behind the violence. It's a necessary restraint that he displays in depicting all these hideous methods of bodily harm, and while the emotional injury exhibited is far more disquieting, and indeed reminiscent of the most troubling content in bona fide torture-porn films, it doesn't feel excessive. Even in the film's final shots, Pesce is still taking aim at a culture of normalization, stifling the development of those whose conformity is compulsorily void, though this strain of sensitivity can't rescue an ending that veers wildly off the rails. The Eyes of My Mother is, up to this point, not a perfect film, but the standards which it has thus far set are seemingly abandoned for a quick-fix finale that answers none of its questions, solves none of its problems, compliments none of its finest attributes. It's an excellent film with a crummy conclusion.

Monday, 5 December 2016

LA LA LAND SWEEPS WAFCA AWARDS


#srynotsry Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association but you have shit taste. There's no way around that. La La Land sweeps, winning all of its nominations (including Original Screenplay, indeed) save... Best Actress? Inexplicable. Anyway, good for them. You keep doing you, WAFCA. Check out their marginally-superior slate of nominations here. Better still, just move on with your life.

Best Film
La La Land

Best Director
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Actress
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Original Screenplay
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Eric Heisserer - based on the story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (Arrival)

Best Cinematography
Linus Sandgren (La La Land)

Best Editing
Tom Cross (La La Land)

Best Production Design
Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and David Wasco (La La Land)

Best Original Score
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Best Acting Ensemble
Hell or High Water

Best Animated Feature
Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Documentary
13th

Best Foreign Language Film
Elle

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington D.C.
Jackie

Best Youth Performance
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Motion Capture Performance
Mark Rylance (The BFG)

Best Voice Performance
Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls)