Archives For Ramblings

After a relatively uneventful summer and autumn in the world of cinema, someone has decided that November is finally the time to make up for this cinematic drought with interest. Not even halfway through the month, we’ve had three long anticipated blockbuster releases: Thor: The Dark World, Gravity and Ender’s Game, with Hunger Games: Catching Fire‘ as the fourth, following in a fortnight. Cannes festival winner Blue is the Warmest Colour is also shortly due for release, as is the controversial biopic The Fifth Estate and the remake of the horror classic Carrie. Indie success The Green Bicycle and a Norwegian ski movie Supervention have already been showing for a couple of weeks.

I’m puzzled by the decision to release so many big blockbusters all at (nearly) the same time, particularly two epic sci-fi movies. Gravity and Ender’s Game were both released last Friday (a week after Thor 2), giving the latter a major disadvantage, having received less buzz in advance and only being screened in the smaller cinemas not occupied by screenings of the former. This is something of a personal disappointment, seeing as I’ve been anticipating Ender’s Game for two years now and would have liked to have seen it being given better odds at becoming a success. At any rate, I will make an effort to see as many of these as I can, even if budget alterations will have to be made accordingly.

Happy November!

The 66th Annual Cannes Festival

Cannes is my favourite arena for movie discoveries big and small, and a few days into the 66th annual festival I’m eagerly taking notes of which movies will be worth looking out for in the coming months.

The great thing about Cannes is the refined blend of well-established talent and new names, not discriminated in either direction the size, genre or recognition of a name or project, which results in a wholesome selection of big and small, familiar and new, English-speaking or foreign, all with picked strictly because of their contribution to the art of cinema.

Last year, despite being considered by some as a weak year at Cannes, we found among the selection ‘The Hunt’, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, ‘Amour’, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, ‘Killing Them Softly.and ‘Laurence Anyways’. There are still a handful of acclaimed movies from last year’s festival I haven’t had the opportunity to see yet (‘Rust and Bone’, ‘In Another Country’, ‘Like Someone in Love’), and some which still have yet to be released (‘Mud’). Sufficed to say that if this is the reaping of a weak year at Cannes, a lot of high-quality movie time is guaranteed in any given year.

On to this year’s movies. A few of them are already well-known prior to their festival screenings, such as the long-awaited opening movie, Baz Luhrman’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, starring among others Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, which received all over decent reviews. Another pre-screening favourite is ‘Only God Forgives’, where director Nicholas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling have teamed up again, creating massive anticipation after their last team effort blew the cinematic world away with ‘Drive’. Another movie I’ve already been looking forward to for a while is Steven Soderberg’s ‘Behind the Candelabra’.

Besides the aforementioned, there aren’t many titles I recognised prior to the festival, with the exceptions of ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’, which I’ve heard of because it’s Tom Hiddelston’s newest project, and ‘Inside Llewelyn Davies’ by the Coen brothers, which should also be a given as one to watch. The director behind the hard-hitting ‘A Separation’, Asghar Farhadi, is back with ‘Le Passé’ or ‘The Past’, which is expected to be another intense, lowkey drama. Among the smaller “unknowns” are ‘Fruitvale Station’, which did well at the Sundance Festival, ‘The Selfish Giant’, which is supposedly a modern take on the short story by Oscar Wilde, and the French ‘L’Inconnu Du Lac’ or ‘Strangers by the Lake’, a movie which is sure to divide the audience and which is almost guaranteed not to get screening time in Norwegian cinemas due to its pornographic tendencies, unless Cinemateket steps up to the challenge, as they did with ‘Laurence Anyways’ last year.

So, that’s something to start off with after the first four days of the festival. With a week still remaining, there is bound to be a lot of on-screen goodness yet to come.

Daniel Day-Lewis Oscars 2013

Perhaps it’s my fascination for dark and troubled personalities that, added to my love of extraordinary acting talent, recently has got me hooked on Daniel Day-Lewis, a man who possesses plenty of both. Spurring it on was this old but insightful article from New York Times, 1992 which gives a really interesting insight into this phenomenal actor’s mind and method: both quite peculiar, yet both unquestionably potent.

I wish I could say that this new-found obsession has nothing to do with this weekend’s Academy Awards ceremony, where he won the Oscar for Best Leading Actor for ‘Lincoln’; that I’ve been meaning to watch more of his movies for a while now anyway (well, that is partly true) and that this just happened to be the time for it, but that’s sadly not the case. The truth is, despite Daniel Day-Lewis’ unbelievable achievements in the world of film and the almost-reverence with which he is treated among colleagues and critics alike, generally being regarded as the most respected, versatile and arguably the best actor of his generation, I shamefully admit that this man up until now has mysteriously somehow been more or less off my radar, and that it’s actually taken me this long to realize just how big of a deal he is.

My Left Foot (1989)

Then again, perhaps it’s not all that odd that I haven’t noticed him. Being exceedingly shy of the media and protective of his privacy, Day-Lewis appears to enjoy that incredibly rare and prized condition that very few celebrities of his caliber do, of generally being left alone by the press (I can think of only Johnny Depp as the other who shares this unusual privilege, as it seems to have become). There is very little being written by him that isn’t related to a movie project, and as he takes on noteworthy few of those, he remains something of an enigma despite his continuous achievements.

What usually is written about Day-Lewis concerns his tenacious use of method acting. He takes this acting technique perhaps further than any other modern-day actor, remaining in character for the entirety of a production and aquiring skills that aren’t strictly speaking neccessary for the movie, such as learning Czech for a character’s backstory and how to build canoes, remaining in a wheelchair off-set for weeks on end, and always insisting that others address him by his character name. Judging only by these kinds of reports and his choice of roles, usually portraying tormented or tyrannical men, one can easily be left with an image of a somewhat disagreeable eccentric.

Bill "The Butcher" Cuttings in 'Gangs of New York' (2002)

The first movie in which I remember taking notice of him (and not just because he’s in every single scene save one in the movie’s 2 hours and 40 minutes) was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘There Will Be Blood’ (2007). His intense performance earned him a place in the exclusive club of actors who have won all the five greatest film awards (Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice) for a single performance. A few years earlier he had appeared in ‘Gangs of New York’ in a solid performance as the tyrannic Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, though I’m among the select few who found the movie as a whole largely overrated. In retrospect I remember noticing at the reception of both of these movies the way this man always seemed to be mentioned in a noticably revered kind of way, but for some reason it escaped my mind to inquire about why.

The first news of his newest all-consuming project, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’, presented by way of a teaser poster of his face in profile, initially sparked my interest. Here was “this guy” again, whom everyone seemed to think so much of, and in biopic about a very interesting historical figure. But with the arrival of the farce ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ around the same time and the painful memories of Spielberg’s last and hugely disappointing movie ‘War Horse’, the interest soon dwindled and turned to increasing skepticism. By the time the movie finally reached the cinemas here much later, despite raving reviews in the US and numerous award nominations both for Day-Lewis and the movie in general, my skepticism had festered and the movie was opted out in favour of other cinema released around the same time.

Lincoln (2012)So watching the Oscars ceremony this Sunday, I still didn’t know all too much about this mysterious and intense man when he was announced the winner of the Academy award for Leading Actor – in the process writing film history on two accounts: as the only person to ever receive three Leading Actor Oscars, and the only person to ever win the Big 5 twice. And here, at last, is when my eyes opened to this extraordinary person. Not only was it fascinating to witness how the entire crowd present at the ceremony saluted him as he approached the stage to accept his reward, but the charisma, incredible humility and down-to-earth air that radiated from while he delivered his well-spoken and witty acceptance speech left me completely astounded as to how I’ve managed to avoid being taken in by him sooner.

As you can imagine, I’ve spent some time rectifying my errors and updating myself on his cinematic history since then. I’ve added six new titles to my watchlist (at this rate steadily becoming more like a -booklet), and, thankfully, discovered that another three were already on it (‘A Room With A View’ (1985), ‘The Last Of The Mohicans’ (1992) and ‘The Crucible’ (1996)). For once I’m grateful about the generally untimely late distributions of American blockbusters to Norwegian cinemas, because it gives me a chance to still catch ‘Lincoln’ on the big screen.

The other five are ‘My Left Foot’ (1989, which earned him his first Oscar), ‘In The Name Of The Father’ (1992, which earned him his second Oscar nomination) and ‘The Ballad of Jack and Rose’ (2005), written and directed by his wife, ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ (1985) and ‘The Unbearable Lightness Of Being’ (1988).

Oscars

Oops. So I caved in and watched the Oscars ceremony anyway, even though I’d decided not to. Seeing as in my local time the show airs from 02:30-06:00 AM on night to Monday, and I work weekdays from 8 AM, I thought I’d be the responsible adult and obstain from such silly indulgences, but apparently something happened along the way and now I find myself on my way to work with the desperate hope that memories from the show, aided by large amounts of caffeine and sugar, will pull me – and my work – through the day with an ounce of dignity remaining by the end of it.

It’s the first time I’ve watched the show in its entirety for many years, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with it. Very little of the usual awkwardness, and apart from a few minor (and one major) blunders, the show was tasteful and pretty funny, safely guided by host Seth MacFarlane, whom I have no trouble imagining might be invited back to host again next year. All in all they played it pretty safe, but that’s a good thing. The live performances were steady, but not flashy, not even those by legends Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey. There were no legendary speeches, but no dreadful ones either. Daniel Day-Lewis and Christoph Waltz were both impossibly charming, as was Jennifer Lawrence, who tripped on her dress on her way to the stage but handled it in the most graceful way.

As for the awards, I’m actually pretty satisfied with the results. As the Oscars tend to be a popularity contest as much as about recognizing outstanding contributions in the art of film, it’s far from the most interesting award ceremony, and it can sometimes be fairly easy to guess who will win in many of the categories. I generally tend to disagree with some of the choices, which are clearly made for reasons other than to honor the best in each category. For instance, Meryl Streep’s award for ‘The Iron Lady’ last year was more of a “lifetime achievement award” to an icon who has missed out on more Oscars than any other nominee, than a testament to that particular performance, which was clearly outweighed by the competition. This year, there wasn’t all too much of that.

‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Argo’ were perhaps the biggest winners, to my satisfaction, though no movie totally swept the table this time. ‘Lincoln’ “lost” the most, as it was nominated in a rediculous amount of categories (for all I know, well-deservedly) and only ended up with two. Since I still haven’t seen some of most heavily nominated movies, such as ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, I didn’t make a list of my favourites in each of the 24 categories. Instead, I made a list of who I expected to win, and I got 13 right, which I thought was pretty decent.

Here are the winners of the 2013 Academy Awards, which concludes the movie and award year of 2012:

Best picture: Argo (a little surprising, but cool)

Best director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi (called it)

Adapted Screenplay: Argo (called it – and yay!)
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained (yay)

Leading actress: Jennifer LawrenceSilver Linings Playbook (yay!)
Leading actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln (called it)

Supporting actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables (called it – and yay!)
Supporting actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained  (called it)

Editing: Argo (called it)
Cinematography: Life of Pi

Production design: Lincoln
Visual Effects: Life of Pi (called it)
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Make-up and Hair: Les Misérables

Sound Mixing: Les Misérables (called it)
Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall (tied!)
Original score: Life of Pi
Theme song: ‘Skyfall’ (called it)

Documentary feature: Searching for Sugar Man (called it – been wanting to see this)
Documentary Short: Inocente

Live Action Short Film: Curfew

Animated feature: Brave (called it – disappointing, but unsurprising)
Animated short: Paperman (called it – I saw this charming little film by chance at the cinema the other week, and I was thrilled to see it win)

Best Foreign Film: Amour (called it – obvious choice)

Did you watch the Oscars? Did any of your favourites win?

BAFTA awards tonight. I haven’t watched nearly enough of the nominated films to justify making a full list of who I believe deserve to win in each category, but I would love to see the supporting actress award go to Anne Hathaway (‘Les Misérables’). If not her, then Bond lady #1, dame Judi Dench (‘Skyfall’).

‘Life of Pi’ deserves an award or two for its stunning visual accomplishments, and I wouldn’t cry if ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ got some creds for that either. It would be fun to see ‘Beast of the Southern Wild’ win for best adapted screenplay. And I will of course keep my fingers crossed for ‘Headhunters’, even though its chances of winning in the foreign movie cateogry against ‘Amour’, ‘Untouchables’, ‘Rust and Bone’ and ‘The Hunt’ are marginal.

The award show begins at 9 PM UTC. Best of luck!