Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

2014, 18, Directed by Martin Scorsese  
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Jon Bernthal  

You'll realise the moment The Wolf of Wall Street begins that your life has been lacking a Martin Scorsese film for quite some time. In fact, you’ll find yourself counting your fingers to discover that The Departed - the last time Marty dealt an 18-certificate, y'know, Scorsese film - was unveiled in 2006 (not to detract from criminally overlooked Shutter Island or Hugo - his mesmerising modern classic for all ages). But with this film, it's fair to say he delivers debauchery in a way we have never seen the directing maestro dabble in before - yes, The Wolf of Wall Street is a sweary (with its record-breaking amount of F-bombs), drug-fuelled, sex-addled trip seen through the eyes of Jordan Belfort, a young businessman corrupted upon his rise to respected stockbroker in Wall Street. It almost goes without saying Belfort’s shoes are filled by Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor so at the top of his game, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine him not being there. After four films under the guidance of somebody who has undoubtedly left their imprint upon cinema as we know it, it’s taken this fifth outing to reach the seismic heights of, dare it be whispered, Taxi Driver.

Terence Winter (creator of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) handles script duties, delivering a 3-hour doorstop of a screenplay, providing opportunity for opulence; Belfort - based on the real-life counterpart - leads a team of disciples who hang onto every word of his many power speeches, marries a trophy wife (rising talent Margot Robbie - fresh from an appearance in About Time - a long long way from Cornwall) and lives a life of luxury. Belfort's progress is tracked from wide-eyed Wall Street whippersnapper to wealthy titular wolf by way of his first boss, Mark Hanna - Matthew McConaughey in an extended cameo near the film’s start which remains a solid highlight by the end. Before too long, crime and corruption is as much a part of Belfort’s day as are stocks and shares, assisted by his memorably bespectacled close associate Donnie Azoff. Played by Jonah Hill, this progressive actor offers terrific support for Leo, the two striking chemistry not entirely dissimilar to the Liotta’s and Pesci’s of Scorsese’s back catalogue - none more so than in a scene involving the pair scoffing pills, only for the effects to rain down on them with hilariously slapstick results - a slacks-wearing DiCaprio especially impressing in a scene that re-defines his career all over again.

The entire cast embrace everything they're expected to do, making it tough to consider how this was once a film Hollywood didn't want itself tagged to. A who's-who cast of recognisable faces - Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Joanna Lumley (needs no introduction) all wade in when the scene requires - as well as cameos from fellow directing peers poking their noses in every now and again; Scorsese is as much a director's director as he is an actor's.  
Part black comedy, part crime biopic, The Wolf of Wall Street is a cautionary opus; to criticise the film for ignoring the detrimental effects these money-grabbing crooks had on their unsuspecting victims (as many have) is one hell of a patronising notion, not to mention one that misinterprets the film. More fool them. To not enjoy this film would be as criminal as the on-screen antics. Its cross-generational scope conveys the sense that it will be around forever... the kind of film watched over and over by University students on lazy Sundays, and parents once their kids have been sent to bed - one that completes the perfect Scorsese movie marathon alongside his esteemed classics. With this running time though, you'd best prepare for an all-nighter. Knock half an hour off, this'd be getting 5.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Oscar Nominations 2014 - Jacob Predicts...

The Golden Globes have been and gone, with the BAFTA jury out until the ceremony in February. You can eye roll. You can sigh. You can pfft all you want. The Academy Awards - presented by Ellen DeGeneres on Sunday 2nd March - are the master of them all. With Oscar nominations poised to be announced tomorrow, I assess the films, actors, actresses and directors I believe will come away with a chance at claiming a golden baldie come March.

Best Picture:
Get ready for a two-horse race with 12 Years a Slave currently edging Gravity, with help from its Golden Globe win on Sunday night. Coming up the outskirts though, we have American Hustle, building stead and proving itself as a worthy opponent. The other two dead certs for a nomination are Nebraska and The Wolf of Wall Street - no surprise considering one is an Alexander Payne film and the other a Martin Scorsese.

The Coen Brothers won in 2008 for No Country for Old Men, and every film of theirs since has featured in the extended nominations list. Inside Llewyn Davis will be no different. Expect to see Captain Phillips there also; it was nominated at the Globes, is up for a BAFTA and would be a damned worthy appearance. The nomination list doesn't necessarily have to be 10 films, but let's go under the impression there will be... Spike Jonze's latest Her will probably tail the nominations. The tough one is whose shoes will fill that final nomination. Will the Academy buckle and go with The Butler? Or will Philomena rear its British head? Other films that are sure to get Oscar recognition have a shot too (Dallas Buyers Club, August: Osage County).

My PredictionAmerican Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
Shock Omission: The Butler

Best Actor:
An extremely easy category to call, surely all of these are going to be nominated? Other surprising, but not unwelcome entrants would include Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Forest Whitaker (The Butler), Christian Bale (American Hustle)
 and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis). In fact, don't be surprised if Bale makes it on there what with the glory American Hustle has been receiving. As for who he would replace, I don't even want to hazard a guess. The person who should be nominated - Robert Redford for his incredible, largely-silent performance in All Is Lost - will be snubbed.

My Prediction:
Tom Hanks - Captain PhillipsMatthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers ClubBruce Dern - NebraskaChiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a SlaveLeonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street

Shock Omission: Robert Redford - All Is Lost

Best Actress:
We can probably call off all bets now, right? Cate Blanchett has this one (and so she should) - however, as for who will be set up for disappointment is another question entirely. Surely Meryl Streep is a nomination shoo-in because Meryl Streep has delivered a good performance this year, as is Sandra Bullock for carrying what many perceive to be 2013's greatest film. It would be nice for Judi Dench and Emma Thompson repping the British side of things for their fantastic appearances as Philomena Lee and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, respectively. But American Hustle has something over voters, and this will trounce somebody's chance of a nomination - Amy Adams is in (especially considering her many nominations and Golden Globe win), and shockingly, I predict Streep will be out.  

My Prediction:
Amy Adams - American Hustle, Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock - Gravity, Judi Dench - Philomena, Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks

Shock Omission: Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor:If American Hustle deserves one nomination, and I never thought I'd catch myself saying this, it's for Bradley Cooper who manages to steal every scene he's in. Jared Leto's Dallas Buyers Club Golden Globe win has just sealed the fact his name will be read by presenter Chris Hemsworth on Thursday, and these Supporting categories love a newcomer... so step forward, Barkhad Abdi who deserves some form of accolade for appearing unfazed opposite Tom Hanks, let alone his gripping performance as a Somali Pirate in Captain Phillips. I'm hoping that this is the year Michael Fassbender's incredible acting skills are rewarded with some recognition - delivering a harrowing performance in 12 Years a Slave. You'd be brave to not expect Jonah Hill to build on his former nomination (for Moneyball) in Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. Things appear clear-cut here, but could Steve Coogan pull a blinder for Philomena? Or will Daniel Brühl's portrayal of F1 racer Niki Lauda be lauded, despite a poor box office performance for Rush in the States? I'm discounting Tom Hanks' slim-pickings performance as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks right now, as well as a posthumous appearance from the late James Gandolfini (Enough Said).  

My Prediction:
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle, Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips, Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club, Daniel Brühl - Rush, Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave   

Shock Omission: Jonah Hill - The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Supporting Actress:
Alongside guaranteed nominees - awards darling Jennifer Lawrence and beloved newcomer Lupita Nyong'o - expect appearances from some very credible actresses who delivered top-rate performances. June Squibb was electric, lighting up the black-and-white bleakness of Nebraska, whilst Sally Hawkins did an incredible job at playing the polar opposite to Blanchett's Blue Jasmine. Julia Roberts has stepped up to the plate in the Harvey Weinstein-produced August: Osage County, as has The Butler's Oprah Winfrey. Only five can be nominated however, and I'm saying Hawkins will wrongfully be ousted.

My Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle, Julia Roberts - August: Osage County, Oprah Winfrey - The Butler, June Squibb - Nebraska, Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave

Shock Omission: Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine   

Best Director:
Clear as day, the below five directors will be nominated come tomorrow. All displayed stellar work in fantastic films, and will continue to do so. Lee Daniels, Alexander Payne and the Coen Brothers have a slim chance of causing a shock announcement (remember that time Chris Nolan never got nominated for Inception?), but it's doubtful. 

My Prediction:
David O. Russell - American Hustle, Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips, Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity, Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave, Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street

Shock Omission: Alexander Payne - Nebraska  


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Golden Globes 2014 - The Predictions

Best Motion Picture – Drama
12 Years a Slave; Captain Phillips; Gravity; Philomena; Rush

Prediction: Discounting all but 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, the entire awards season truly is a two-horse race this year; Steve McQueen’s challenging film tackles slavery, whilst Alfonso Cuarón’s blockbuster embraces spectacle – you really couldn’t get two more different films, and it could go either way. Judging by the HFPA’s past winners, I predict Gravity will be the evening’s big winner meaning 12 Years a Slave will have to wait until March for its statuette

Who I Want: Gravity – an immersive rollercoaster ride of a film.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock – Gravity; Judi Dench – Philomena; Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks; Kate Winslet – Labor Day

Prediction: The awards buzz has surrounded Blanchett since Blue Jasmine landed last summer, and although strong competition has manifested in Sandra Bullock and us Brits (with Judi Dench building prominence for her role in Philomena), it would be one hell of a shock if Cate Blanchett didn’t emerge victorious in a completely deserved win for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

Who I Want: Cate Blanchett – her role in Blue Jasmine is one that will never be forgotten.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave; Idris Elba – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom; Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips; Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club; Robert Redford – All Is Lost

Prediction: As astounding as it would be to see Ejiofor finally recognised for the terrific actor he is, Tom Hanks put forward a true masterclass in Captain Phillips. Could he commandeer the win? It will be close, but I still think Chiwetel Ejiofor will come away with the win for his role as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave - with Matthew McConaughey the dark horse just outside the ring.

Who I Want: Tom Hanks for that final scene alone, although would be incredible to see acting legend Robert Redford take to the stage.

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
American Hustle; Her; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; The Wolf of Wall Street

Prediction: A category specific to comedy and musicals featuring no out-and-out comedies or musicals, it would be easy to assume this is American Hustle’s or The Wolf of Wall Street’s. Yet I’m putting my chips on Nebraska – Alexander Payne is an HFPA favourite.

Who I Want: Inside Llewyn Davis – the Coen Brothers have made a love-letter to 60s folk that rivals their back catalogue and veers towards perfection.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
Amy Adams – American Hustle; Julie Delpy – Before Midnight; Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha; Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said; Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Prediction: An understated output, Meryl Streep will win for no other reason than it’s another great performance from Meryl Streep…

Who I Want: Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha may not have been perfect, but her performance was one of the year’s most memorable.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical

Christian Bale – American Hustle; Bruce Dern – Nebraska; Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street; Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis; Joaquin Phoenix – Her

Prediction: A category filled with top rate performances and no clear favourites means this will be the exciting one; as great as Bale is in American Hustle, he has been better, and even though Oscar Isaac is incredible in the Coen Brothers’ entrancing Inside Llewyn Davis, it’ll be down to Dern and DiCaprio to truss this one out… Expect Bruce Dern to get the gold for his role as Woody Grant in Nebraska.

Who I Want: Leonardo DiCaprio – this is one actor who deserves to be rewarded, especially for a performance such as this.

Best Animated Feature Film
The Croods; Despicable Me 2; Frozen

Prediction: Quite a tough one to call, but Disney’s Frozen will come away with the win here – despite fierce competition from those Minions

Who I Want: No preference really –Despicable Me 2, because it was my little brother Isaac’s favourite film of last year. Yep. I'm a good bro.

Best Foreign Language Film
Blue is the Warmest Colour; The Great Beauty; The Hunt; The Past; The Wind Rises

Prediction: Upon first look, this appears a straight forward category. What with Blue Is the Warmest Colour being winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. All of the other nominated films have critical acclaim behind them however - especially Sorrentino's The Great Beauty - meaning this is one of the evening’s tougher ones to call. Still, I’m opting for Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

Who I Want: The Hunt – a mesmerizing film, with a jaw-dropping performance from Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine; Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle  ; Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts – August: Osage County; June Squibb – Nebraska

Prediction: Some great performances in yet another category with no clear frontrunner, June Squibb should win for her show-stealing role in Nebraska. However, awards darling Jennifer Lawrence – fresh from her Silver Linings… success – has gained heat as the night has crept ever closer.

Who I Want: June Squibb for taking a character and transforming her from frustrating matriarch into one of the most heart-warming roles of 2013.

Best Performance in an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips; Daniel Brühl – Rush; Bradley Cooper – American Hustle; Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave; Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Prediction: It’s really great to see newcomer Barkhad Abdi recognised amongst these other terrific performances, but I can see all being trounced by Jared Leto’s appearance in Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Who I Want: Michael Fassbender or Daniel Brühl, for his fantastic portrayal of FL legend Niki Lauda.

Best Director – Motion Picture
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity; Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips; Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne – Nebraska; David O. Russell – American Hustle

Prediction: It will be damned difficult to beat Alfonso Cuarón, who I am assuming is a shoo-in for his fascinating work on display in the ground-breaking Gravity. In many ways, it should be his.  

Who I Want: I believe that Cuarón deserves every accolade laid upon him; an extraordinary filmmaker who delivered a show-stopping film.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Spike Jonze – Her; Bob Nelson – Nebraska; Jeff Pope, Steve Coogan – Philomena; John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave; Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell – American Hustle

Prediction: I’m going to opt for Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell’s American Hustle screenplay – their re-telling of the ABSCAM operation back in the 70s (albeit with caper twist) seems like a script that would take the gong.

Who I Want: Philomena – seeing Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan scooping the award for their heartfelt re-telling of Martin Sixsmith’s account would be a great moment.