Saturday, 19 February 2011

Best Picture Nominee #2: The Fighter

 Back in '77, Rocky won in the Academy Award ring against some classic heavyweights - and so with The Fighter being billed as ‘the greatest boxing movie since Rocky’ (completely forgetting Raging Bull in the process), there is pressure on David O. Russell’s effort. The truth is that The Fighter is really great, a true 'performance' film. This didn’t prevent O. Russell from securing an Oscar nomination for his deft direction – arguably, in what should have been Chris Nolan’s nomination – but somehow did prevent Mark Wahlberg, the film’s heart, from getting noticed in the Best Actor category. With Christian Bale nominated (and a shoo in), aswell as former-nominees Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, The Fighter will definitely scoop up some awards

Would it have been nominated before the 10-nomination rule?
Hell yeah, the Academy loves a clich├ęd rags-to-riches story like this. That isn’t to detract from the film; it’s one of the more charming efforts on this year's list and fully deserves its nomination. It’s chance here is better than most. Like Micky Ward himself, this is the underdog, albeit an obvious one.

Rating out of 5: ●●●●
Chances out of 5: ●●●●


Friday, 18 February 2011

Best Picture Nominee #1: Black Swan

 I liked Black Swan. It made a name for itself way before the Oscar race due to the festival circuit (much like The King’s Speech), but has caused quite a bit of controversy. Billed as Darren Aronofsky’s companion piece to The Wrestler, although Black Swan followed a much different route, the ultimate destination was pretty exact. Great performances, obviously from Natalie Portman, but there is great support (Barbara Hershey, to name one) – and Aronofsky’s direction rightfully earned him his first nom.

Would it have been nominated before the 10 nomination-rule?
Almost certainly – the Academy likes one ‘different’ film, and this is certainly not the same as any other film in the list. It steers very close to horror territory at times, and there are some ultra-surreal set pieces that could – and probably will - affect its eventual chances. Still, ballet hasn’t been captured on camera like this before and Natalie Portman’s very possible Best Actress win will enhance its chances

Rating out of 5: ●●●●
Chances out of 5: ●●●●●


Monday, 14 February 2011

True Grit

2010, 15, Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

The first thing you should know about the Coen Brothers latest is that this is not a remake of John Wayne’s 1969 classic of the same name (for which he won his only Oscar), but an adaptation of the Charles Portis novel. You should also know that The Duke’s role has been filled by the sure shoes of one of the finest actors around today: The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges. On usual fine form as bedraggled marshal Rooster Cogburn, he is Crazy Heart’s wheezy Bad Blake with an eye-patch. The story for those who aren’t familiar is based around 14-year-old Mattie Ross who requests the help of Cogburn to track down John Chaney, the man responsible for her father’s death. The rest is cinematic magic of the purest form, sprinkled with a dash of Coen. What is striking about True Grit is not only Roger Deakins’ dazzling cinematography, resulting in your eyes stretching to the furthest stretch of the surrounding Arkansas enclosure, but the fact that this is somewhat lacking in Coen-esque traits; that’s not to say their famous flair does not present itself – their script is consumed with deliciously-delivered dialogue and characterisation fresh from their universe (look no further than an early scene involving Mattie and a lawyer – it is like a Western version of a scene from Fargo), and there are visual elements which are unmistakeably their work (three words: bear on horseback). 

The fact that Ethan and Joel could mould their source material so seamlessly speaks volumes about their abilities as filmmakers, officially part of the elite. If No Country for Old Men was their revisionist homage to the Western genre that rarely circulates these days, True Grit is a picture in which homage’s will be made, seriously standing shoulder to shoulder with some of those classic Wayne films. The casting is near perfect, with Bridges’ nonchalant drawl and Matt Damon’s Texas Ranger LaBeouf convincing and impressing – but it is Hailee Steinfeld’s debut that takes things to the next level and blows away anything in sight. It is hard to recall a child performance so pitch-perfect, and the fact that she was notched into the Best Supporting Actress category by the Academy is an injustice to her beautiful work here. The last thing you should know about True Grit is that it is true class. It seems the Coen Brothers are unstoppable. But really, who would want to stop them?

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥