Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
10. Black Kids - Partie Traumatic
For a start, I love the three singles the Black Kids released this year -- two of which are in my singles list and the other, Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo) a close omission. This band stands out from all those boring indie bands that are around at the moment, mixing it up musically and crucially bringing the fun factor to an exhausted (of late) style of music.
I can't stand Rubber Boots either, but if you take that away this is a solid, excellent pop album, filled with plenty of cheese and tons of bite. Go-Go is a favourite (why didn't they release that?!), as well as the addictive Boyfriend. I think they hail from Denmark (or Norway?) so together with Robyn they're really spicing up the Scandinavian pop scene.
8. Burial - Untrue
The Mercury Music Prize can be very pretentious at times, but at the end of the day it does what it says on the tin. I had never heard of Burial, nor Rachel Unthank, and I certainly wouldn't have known about the wonder of Laura Marling. Burial is a mysterious man (Jo Whiley joked that there are only two known photos of him), but whatever his Pimpernel-esque status he crafts an album full of unique sounds that conjure up stark imagery and feel atmospherically dense.
Robyn wasn't wholly responsible for last year's incredible With Every Heartbeat, you know? Kleerup featured on it and have now released their own album, showcasing collaborations with Marit Bergman, Neneh Cherry, and fresh-faced Lykke Li herself, who you'll be seeing quite a bit of in the course of this post. It's not the most innovative or intense dance track you've ever heard, but it'll get you revved up no problem.
I totally jumped on the Grace Jones bandwagon this year. I was only a baby when she released her previous album so it ain't shock of the century that I wasn't so familiar with the woman (past Slave to the Rhythm), but trust me, I feel suitably enlightened right now. Hurricane is a little gem; political, generous, epic, mammoth, and most importantly always true to itself. This Is opens the record as unapologetically as any number of novels have done in the past. A major comeback.
I surprise myself. Not that I don't like Will Young, don't get me wrong. Hell, I voted four times for him when he won Pop Idol. I've paid for his career! But, fine as his songs have been lately (and I usually like the singles he releases) he doesn't do much for me from a musical standpoint. Being honest, there isn't much to get excited about in that way on Let It Go either, but lyrically this album is filled with such grief, pain, and the tumultuous nature of being in love with someone. It's so honest, and as such his voice is as lingering as his words. A good chunk of the album is superb.
4. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend's music feels so nonchalant... almost like somebody's died and you haven't noticed. But it's amazing that they can make this feel a) captivating, and b) strangely uplifting, even when you haven't got a clue why they're going on about Oxford Uni or Peter Gabriel. It's an absoloute delight, and something that stands out as original without having any entrenched gimmicks or personalities.
Oh, is it really number three? :'( .. I can see myself switching this top three in my head as the year's pass, since they seem to interchange in my CD player like an unrelenting pinwheel. I can say Seventh Tree is a marvel; it's majestic, gorgeous, and yet precocious and shy, spirited, wallowing. It's a paradox. How can listening to songs that proclaim love as "the folly" and have lines so negative as "you don't love me" be so gratuitous? And every song seems to build up and up... from the soaring end of Little Bird (my favourite part of the album) to the emotional breakdown in Eat Yourself and the dramatic end to A & E. What makes it number three (and this is a pretty technically perfect record) is because it feels more modest. I daren't say the word "slight". I maybe feel less generous towards the subtle than the daring, which is to a degree a reversal of my feelings towards Acting. To use an Oscar analogy (why not?) this is the inhibited Catalina Sandino Moreno to the consuming Annette Bening at #2, and the angst-ridden Imelda Staunton at #1.
2. Girls Aloud - Out of Control
I think this says it all.
1. Lykke Li - Youth Novels
It's great to be young. Very few responsibilities... good skin... you can have sex with whoever you want and not fall under an anvil of judgement. Lykke Li is just 22. You can tell this through the subjects she paruses in Youth Novels, the young love in Little Bit, where she sings about being under that familiar spell of only wanting to give an inch of yourself in fear of getting hurt, only to end up declaring yourself as no more than a possession. The line "And for you I keep my legs apart, and forget about my tainted heart" rings true also. Dance, Dance, Dance is about having fun and forgetting your troubles, Let It Fall is an all-out love fest, as she sings "And I love the way tears hit my face". But the music and lyrics often feel really mature in this way, and it's interspersed with such touching moments of sadness, heartbreak and alarming self-doubt. Everybody But Me is particularly self-critical. But what caps the album off are the volatile, aggressive tunes, like I'm Good I'm Gone and the life-changing Breaking It Up, which really encompass what this album is all about: being young, naive, impetuous, ready to blow, but having the absoloute time of your life.
Singles of 2008
Here's to an amazing year of music in 2009. *Clink" *Clink* *giggle*
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
ANNE HATHAWAY / Kym - “RACHEL GETTING MARRIED”
ANGELINA JOLIE / Christine Collins - “CHANGELING”
MELISSA LEO / Ray Eddy - “FROZEN RIVER”
MERYL STREEP / Sister Aloysius Beauvier - “DOUBT”
KATE WINSLET / April Wheeler - “REVOLUTIONARY ROAD”
It's not a huge surprise, but ARGH! One lives in hope. Oscar nomination day is going to be dramatic.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
But back to the films: a self-conscious but well-played and very giving adaptation of a famous play, a brazen woman's quest to escape an ill-fated end, a chronicle of the campest childhood one could ever wish for, an epic melodrama about small-town politics and uncertain romance, and a modest, deliciously dry social satire that captures the changing moral attitudes of a new generation deftly. The final film to which I refer is Delbert Mann's Separate Tables, which is by far my favourite of the five, and is poised to emerge later on in my personal canon, so watch out!
On with the 1958 Actressexuality, which will be ordered in terms of preference. If it looks as if I'm bitching about someone a lot, try not to take it to heart. It isn't forgotten that all of these performances (if not perfect) emerge as really important to their films.
Elizabeth Taylor - Cat on a Hot Tin RoofRating: ****
But there's an awful lot to take from the film, the titular 'cat' in question being Maggie's middle-nickname, of the sort you're accustomed to seeing attached to turn-of-the-century gangsters, post-war boxers, and modern-day wrestling stars. Maggie's in a tight spot; not least because her husband can't stand the sight of her, but it's somehow fitting to talk of her in the same breath as these bustling physical brutes. She doesn't dropkick Paul Newman off the bedpost, or anything that brutishly severe (although wouldn't that have made for wonderful viewing?), but it's the tenacity she exhibits as a wife that marks her as a real force to be reckoned with, both scared of what lurks beneath her husband's strange behaviour and yet determined to get to the bottom of it.
"B-b-b-b-but mummy" she stutters and stammers on more than one occasion. It's sympathetic but limited, and one wonders, at first, if someone like her, that sheltered and socially awkward, would be as exaggerated, unaware, defensive as she appears to be early on. But such is the brilliant understanding of people (from British stalwarts, to military men, to Americans, to cosmopolitans, to carers, and to the epitome of transatlantic glamour herself, Rita Hayworth) that Sibyl's crust of concession begins to question itself; a cultural enlightenment on a minute, claustrophobic scale. In retrospect it's a touching performance, reaching its height and drama with her shell-shocked reaction to the central event in the film, and her confrontation with David Niven's Major near the end.
A leading performance? I'm not so sure. Such is the nature of Separate Tables that everyone in it feels to be supporting each other and the themes of the film. Nevertheless, Kerr got her place, and personally I wouldn't demote her.
Rosalind Russell - Auntie Mame
I suppose it all depends on what you hold a "Leading Actress" to account for. If you're looking for a driving force Russell is it; if you're looking for a woman that fulfills expectations, she's it and more, but if you're looking for an Actress that can change perceptions of her film, I'm not sure her box is the one to tick on your '58 ballot.
For better or worse, Robert Wise's I Want To Live! is a naive piece of Oscar Bait. While modern Leading Actress vehicles are no less upfront in their demands, it's an altogether more insidious, interdependent, media-centric circus that exists now. From the get-go it's fairly obvious where the film's going right up to its conclusion, with a few curve balls and about-turns meandering their way through the dull middle-portion. It's funny that Hayward owes probably as much to her film as any of these other Actresses, since it showcases the pitfalls of being a woman "with attitude" fairly ably itself. Minus the overt comedy, Katharine Hepburn's jailbird shtick in Bringing Up Baby feels almost like Hayward; gutsy, brash, over-powering, ballsy, and a la Hepburn just as likely to annoy, though less with incessance than the fact she's willing to believe that she's worth ten times that of your average con, or indeed your average cop, or crucially, your average man. Hayward's Barbara Graham is on nobody's side, but eminently easy to root for.
Laughing it off at first Hayward is still our charismatic leading lady for way past the halfway-mark, but as the realisation of the consequences of being convicted of this crime (which we're told she didnt commit, even though the real-life Barbara Graham was supposedly guilty) takes its ivy-grip, I Want To Live! turns into something quite harrowing. Her charm fades quickly, just as it's supposed to, but one wonders if this charm (endearing and revealing as it occasionally proves) is one of the few things Hayward is required to turn on and off. She carries your gaze for chunks of the film but nary improves upon what we know or heightens what we feel.
It's only been a week since I watched Some Came Running but I still had to IMDB the film for the name of MaClaine's character, who's called Ginnie. It still doesn't ring that much of a bell, and shouldn't really, since Ginnie lingers in the background of the film for long periods. This is typified by the film's early abandonment of her, introducing Ginnie as the dumb tart that follows Sinatra's Dave to his home town in Indiana, and neglecting her character for a good forty minutes while we figure out the leading man. It proves a good move, both for her and the 137-minute melodrama.
It's almost an anti-MaClaine performance in that she doesn't have the intelligence, decision or bite we're treated to in her later creations in Terms of Endearment, Postcards of the Edge etc. but this was very early in her career, and so her naive, child-like affectations and needy, attention-seeking demeanor come across as genuine of the babyface Actress. A girl that needs to clamp on to anything and anyone; funny, loveable, but obvious, blatant and unable to draw the line. I heavily suspect that her nomination is for the eventual fate of her character, but no matter, this is lovely work.
Deborah Kerr - Separate Tables
Friday, December 12, 2008
Julia succeeds on almost every level, getting bogged down a tad in its latter stages but managing to create a woman/boy relationship with the sentiment of Gloria and Paper Moon before it, but never seeming to make the characters concede any of their individuality. Clever. More on this, maybe. Bees is more problematic, if only because it falls into the trap of believing that large dramatic acts are the only thing that can provoke serious changes in character, and allow hidden information to be revealed and acknowledged. But hey ho... I enjoyed them both.
A word or two on the Globe nominations: Colin Farrell's performance in In Bruges is STILL my favourite male performance of the year (no joke) and so it's lovely to see him in there. I'm sad that they couldn't find room for The Dark Knight, especially as much less interesting-looking films are included there. I've started to really dislike the Golden Globes' way of doing things. Sure, you get an 'Emily Blunt in Devil Wears Prada' in every year, but is it really enough when you have to tolerate Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio being involved because they're in a half-decent December film? I'm not sure.
By the way I got 36/58 nominations correct, which is 62%.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Dark Knight
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Leonardo Di Caprio - Revolutionary Road
Javier Bardem - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Cate Blanchett - The Curious Case...
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Josh Brolin - Milk
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Kung Fu Panda
The Class (France)
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
As well as 2007 I've also managed to do the 1994 and 1995 pages. Note that the mid-80s to mid-90s is the period I've neglected quite a lot, with viewings confined to popular T.V. comedy films like Uncle Buck and Mrs. Doubtfire. Hey, we all loved them at the time, right? Maybe not, but regardless of that Best Picture winners in this period, both that I have seen (Rain Man, Forrest Gump) and those that I haven't (Out of Africa, Platoon) hardly conjure up fond memories or wild lust. And yes I know there is a lot more to cinema than the Oscars, but I sense a lot of negativity about this period in cinema generally. I'll get there, though, I'm sure. But yeah, all of the 96-06 pages are also updated, including three new top five entries in 1998, and an "I still can't bring myself to drop you" ninth place for Joel Schumacher's wickedly OTT version of Lloyd-Webber's camp classic, The Phantom of the Opera, in 2004.
- Year-end lists for Albums, Singles etc. (Films in February)
- 1938 & 1958 Actress Specials
- More awards coverage and predictions
- And if I can bear it, a review of Changeling
Director: Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”Runner-up: Christopher Nolan, “The Dark Knight”
Actor: Sean Penn, “Milk”Runner-up: Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”
Actress: Sally Hawkins, “Happy-Go-Lucky”Runner-up: Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Supporting actor: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”Runner-up: Eddie Marsan, “Happy-Go-Lucky”
Supporting actress: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Elegy”Runner-up: Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Screenplay: Mike Leigh, “Happy-Go-Lucky”Runner-up: Charlie Kaufman, “Synecdoche, New York”
Foreign-language film: “Still Life” Runner-up: “The Class”
Documentary: “Man on Wire” Runner-up: “Waltz With Bashir”
Animation: “Waltz With Bashir”
Cinematography: Yu Lik Wai, “Still Life” Runner-up: Anthony Dod Mantle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Production design: Mark Friedberg, “Synecdoche, New York”Runner-up: Nathan Crowley, “The Dark Knight”
Music/score: A.R. Rahman, “Slumdog Millionaire”Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
New Generation: Steve McQueen, “Hunger”
Not only have LA given the BEST picture of the year their "Best Picture" award, they've also awarded Sally Hawkins' performance in Happy-Go-Lucky, my favourite turn of 2008. It doesn't seem as if Hawkins is going away, although this by no means makes her a lock -- Vera Farmiga won this in 2005 and it isn't historically water-tight, but it's a major boost. The Oscar-bait isn't getting the critical acclaim in this category so far. Love the Waltz With Bashir win too, for a change. Wall-E is obviously winning Best Picture anyway, isn't it? I can dream....
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Best Film: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Best Director: DAVID FINCHER, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Actor: CLINT EASTWOOD, Gran Torino
Best Actress: ANNE HATHAWAY, Rachel Getting Married
Best Supporting Actor: JOSH BROLIN, Milk
Best Supporting Actress: PENELOPE CRUZ, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Foreign Language Film: MONGOL
Best Documentary: MAN ON WIRE
Best Animated Feature: WALL-E
Best Ensemble Cast: DOUBT
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: DEV PATEL, Slumdog Millionaire
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: VIOLA DAVIS, Doubt
Best Directorial Debut: COURTNEY HUNT, Frozen River
Best Original Screenplay: NICK SCHENK, Gran Torino
Best Adapted Screenplay: SIMON BEAUFOY, Slumdog Millionaire and
ERIC ROTH, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Spotlight Award: MELISSA LEO, Frozen River and
RICHARD JENKINS, The Visitor
The BVLGARI Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: TRUMBO
THE EDGE OF HEAVEN
Top Five Documentary Films
Top Ten Films:
BURN AFTER READING
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
THE DARK KNIGHT
Blows for Australia, Doubt, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road. Boosts for Defiance (even though it seemed likely cause of their previous Zwick love), Wall-E, and The Wrestler, which I didn't think would be their cup of tea but was wrong as usual. Burn After Reading is a good film, and it's probably a testament to the Coen Bros' outstanding popularity amongst awards bodies last year that this film has been remembered here.
Prediction Score: 5/10 or 6/11 and none of the winning Actors. Oh dear.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Best Picture: The Reader
I think it's going to be this or Slumdog that wins. They went for Daldry in 2002 with The Hours, and although Reader doesn't have quite the same buzz it feels like a respectable winner. Something that needs championing as a realistic contender, anyway.
I realise I've left out Benjamin Button, The Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married, Wall-E, Australia, Gran Torino etc. but there has to be casualties.
Director: Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
I very nearly put Clint Eastwood but I think Boyle's direction is likely to be showy, and the film is popular, so why not?
Actor in a Leading Role: Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Or Di Caprio. The ones that look bland.
Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep - Doubt
Slam dunk. Thank you very much.
Actor in a Supporting Role: Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road
Actress in a Supporting Role: Kate Winslet - The Reader
Because she badly needs endorsing in this category, and the NBR really don't care for fraud.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Here is the nominees list in full.
A double nomination for Mark Ruffalo. Ignore The Brothers Bloom, which looks meh at best. I'll put that down to a combination of Blindness (the film obviously not the condition), a shortage of comedy/musical options, and love for his other nominated performance in What Doesn't Kill You. The trailer looks pretty good but the film is gritty and I'm maybe thinking Rourke's already got that base covered this year.
The Visitor got so much love, but not for Hiam Abbas, despite a host of performances in lesser-loved small films included in the same category. Weird.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The word "terrorism" injects fear into hearts and minds the world over, but "terrorism", contrary to what we're told, is a complex, deep, and really quite vague term. Uli Edel understands this, and at times dares to glorify it as a daring, exciting venture that acts as a challenge to the dominant oppressive social rule. He does this by exposing us to this straight away, and in more ways than one. The film opens on a nudist beach, cocks aloft (OK, not quite) and tits ablaze; exposure at its most natural and reputatively radical. That Edel endeavours (and seems to enjoy) waving this radicalism with the punch of patriotist flag-happiness is to an extent forgivable, and in fact allows the first half of the film to flourish.
Edel makes a dense subject magnetic and energetic, and the editing in this film often feels so vehicular and mammoth, Malick-style epic but within such a confined political study, and often confined setting. I loved the starkness of the film's pallette, which you can guage from looking at its poster, and significantly Edel guides the look and feel of the film without drawing attention to quite how radical he's being visually; often as radical as the politics Baader Meinhof is so keen to illustrate.
At 150 minutes though, you really have to wonder if this generous running time achieves a patient portrayal or lingers and drags like heavy machinery. I'm willing to concede that it's horses for courses on that point but, for me, the last hour was a slow one, unaided by a shift in tone towards the end that becomes a lot more resigned, both in terms of its characters and what fate will befall them and the realisation that their politics is becoming a lot less coherent. The treatment of the characters is also problematic. Their individuality gains importance in the film's final act but throughout The Baader-Meinhof group are depicted as just that: a group. The one character it does treat individually, Ulrike Meinhof (Gedeck), makes such a dramatic shift from working mother to gargantuan rebel that you just wish that there had been more about the characters (their background, social status, personality) to speculate on where this form of activism comes from, and the people that are drawn into it. Lord knows, there's time to do this, but there's an annoying reluctance to let us into the frey that mirrors the rigid unwillingness of society to acknowledge the roots of such a 'leftist' activist organisation.
I'll end with a likeness. Olivier Dahan's La Vie En Rose had the over-eagerness of a virile, horny teenager, itching to please, passionate, involved. The Baader Meinhof Complex familiarly rides a plaintive coaster, sticking to what it knows best but containing itself visually and thematically. There's wild abandon there; and one wishes that it shows as much fearlessness in its exploration of character as it does with its politics, but this all lurks beneath a sinister desire. If it was to be put in the context of the socialist radar Baader and Meinhof were undoubtedly a part of, this film is like the beginning of reform. Occasionally uncertain, but with penetrative direction and the very best of intentions.