Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2008 FAQ

It may appear as if I've been in a bit of a timewarp on the filmic front; reminiscing about actresses long dead and proclaiming awards for 2007's cinematic gems. But sadly, until distributors figure a system whereby films get a worldwide synchronised release (I live in the hope of a six year-old praying that Santa is real), things aren't gonna look clean. Still, I've nearly put this to bed. Just two more categories in the Addicts to go.

As for 2008, here are some FAQ's for ya, until I can manage to muster up a couple of reviews of the 11 releases I've seen so far:-

Q: What's the year's best film so far?

A: Neil Marshall's Doomsday. A political action thriller packed with substance, lucid in tone, and confident in execution.

Q: What's the year's worst film so far?

A: The horrendous Other Boleyn Girl. Tacky, trashy and repellent.

Q: Will Sally Hawkins be nominated for an Oscar, and if so, is she worthy?

A: It's a signature Mike Leigh Actress performance. Like Blethyn, some are likely to find her annoying, but there's undeniable depth there. At the moment, I'd say yes. And it's Oscar worthy stuff in my eyes. Loved her.

Q: Are you going to see Indiana Jones 4?

A: Haha. Not even for Shia.

Q: Which film are you most looking forward to this year?

A: Synecdoche, New York!

And a few words about the extraordinary impact that the year of 2008 has had upon me thus far...
I'm actually looking forward to seeing the work of Clint Eastwood and Sean Penn ;-)

Eurovision Semi-Final Qualifiers

3 Days To Go Until Eurovision!

The following qualifiers from the first Eurovision Semi-Final (it's a gruelling process) are:-
  • Greece
  • Romania
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Finland
  • Russia
  • Israel
  • Azerbaijan
  • Armenia
  • Poland
  • Norway

I didn't see the semi-final (I'm trying to avoid the songs, remember) but my fellow Eurovision-obsessee says that Dima Bilan's performance for Russia was diabolical. He still got in, so go figure why he's the frontrunner. Oh, and you're right in thinking Dustin the Turkey will not be mixing the decks for Ireland on Saturday. Try not to cry into your pillows tonight.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ferropolis, My Metropolis: Or How I Learned To Stop Fucking Around And See Björk

I have a confession: I have never been to a concert. Maybe it was ticket prices that put me off. Or perhaps that I seem to have such a different taste in music than most of my friends/family. Nevertheless, it's a pretty sad situation.

When tickets for Madonna's new tour came out on Monday I got thinking about things and decided I wanted to go, but when I posed this theory to my friend she clearly wasn't gonna shell out £75 on the woman. Fair enough if you're not that much of a fan. Not all of us think she's legendary. We did however compromise on the idea of going to a festival this Summer.

As well as never having been to a concert, I've never been camping before, so the theory in itself throws up images of a headfirst dive into a shallow pool, but if I'm bound for a rude awakening then so be it, because on the weekend of July 18th I shall be heading to none other than Germany for the Melt! festival. The good news? A return flight costs £30! The better news? Björk will headline it, closing the marathon 72-hour event on Sunday evening.

I've already exercised my adoration for the Icelandic Goddess on more than one occasion, and I am so deliriously excited at the prospect of seeing this woman perform probably around ten songs live on stage in the surroundings of Ferropolis (which translates curiously as 'City of Steel'). Other performers also include Robyn (!), and Roisin Murphy (!!), whose 2007 album, 'Overpowered', is nothing short of incredible. Also: Kate Nash, Hot Chip, and Operator Please.

I need reining in ;-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Addicts 2007: Rounding Up The Minors

These are the categories I haven't managed to get through, so I'm gonna rattle them off now pretty quickly, before I proceed to name my director and picture picks:-


A Mighty Heart
Knocked Up


I Don't Want To Sleep Alone
Lust, Caution
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood


No Country For Old Men

Visual Effects


Hola. Eurovision is exactly 10 days, 1 hour and 50 minutes away, so it's time to look ahead to the first semi-final, which takes place next Tuesday. Unlike other award shows (as if any others count), I don't like to see all of the competitors before the big night. With Eurovision, it's fun kind of experiencing these interesting, and in some cases fucking CRAZY tunes, for the first time. Nevertheless I've decided to bring your attention to a couple of countries hoping to make it through that first semi-final.

Dustin the Turkey - "Irelande Douze Pointe"

Yes that is a puppet turkey. What more do you expect from a contest like this? On a more serious note: I find it telling that even Ireland, one of the most culturally-ingrained, historically musical (and successfully so) nations in the World has reverted to such a tacky and obvious gimmick. Let's stick to what we're good at people.

Dima Bilan - "Believe

This guy famously danced around in a vest in 2006 to the tune of "Never Let You Go", while papier-mached figures emerged from a piano. The set was interesting. The song was good. This one seems a little more routine (although nobody can predict the presentation of any song in this contest), and it kinda starts like "Umbrella", which is... strange.


Kalomira - "Secret Combination"

My Greek friend linked me to the three songs Greece would have to choose from to represent them at Eurovision this year. This was the one I disliked and the only one of the three she liked. We'll see if the rest of Europe agree with me or her, but in my view, its chorus is dull and repetitive, which makes it a lame pop song.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Addicts 2007: Actress in a Leading Role

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Julie Christie
Away From Her

Alzheimers is a terribly sad fate for a person, and watching the breakdown of Grant and Fiona's relationship in the touching but undeniably troubled Away From Her, is itself fairly devastating. It's interesting though that, for me, the entirety of the film's engulfing sense of loss is instigated (without ever appearing so) from the incredible Julie Christie. We are often encouraged to walk in the shoes of the weary, and annoyingly overwrought Gordon Pinsent. A man who has lost something. But Christie makes Fiona much more accessible as a victim, her mental deterioration mirroring Pinsent's physical longing, and thus her punishment seems much more ingrained and natural. She doesn't seem affected, losing none of the grace, humour, charm; yet appears so irredeemably distant. Without context. Without recognition. A rich and painful portrayal.

Marion Cotillard
La Vie En Rose

In more than one way Cotillard's performance is not of the ilk that I tend to admire. Incredibly theatrical (especially in terms of her gestures and mannerisms) one can be tempted to believe that she lacks depth, restraint, understanding of what is needed to make Piaf a genuine character. But for what Olivier Dahan's La Vie En Rose so baldly displays as a fast-paced sporadic tribute to the legendary powerhouse (not dissimilar to the pace and style of All That Jazz by the way), Marion Cotillard can read everything the film wants to achieve and more. I had difficulty separating whether it's more her triumph than Dahan's that together, her performance and the film seem so synchronised. It's a success for both, but the editing -- a major feature of the film -- has to have festered gladly on Cotillard's showy snippets of Piaf. Almost Minelli-like, she wades in and out of every scene just as La Vie En Rose meanders so adventurously and recklessly in and out of Piaf's life. Amazing.

Angelina Jolie
A Mighty Heart

As a woman chasing any trace of her kidnapped husband it isn't a feat that Jolie has us on Marianne's side. When we think of grieving widows, or housewives waiting, hoping, for their husbands to come home from war, it's easy to expect and see the desperate wreck. But we don't often see them as an active force in proceedings, and that might be why Jolie is so surprisingly effective as the core of A Mighty Heart. She is by no means better than the film, but without a shadow of a doubt understands every bit of the episode, carrying off her role with the passion of a heroine. And when I say 'heroine', I don't mean someone who's content to put a brave face on things, but someone keen to understand as much of the political situation as she can in order to bring her fella home. She wants it more than we do, and it shows. Jolie has so much impact as a personality than she ever has as a figure of pity; despite pregnancy, false hope, loss, the raw power she evokes is that of our superwoman beaten. Beaten admirably, but heartbreakingly beaten nonetheless.

Sienna Miller

I actually have trouble acknowledging that I value Sienna Miller's dogged, neurotic performance in Interview, a film I didn't care for, above Laura Linney, Anamaria Marinca, and the tireless Ellen Page. But this is the girl I wanted here most, and in all honesty, it's because I saw more of myself in her than I did the others. Judging and interpreting films is ultimately an altogether personal experience, and consequently Miller, whose Katya is restricted despite her power and independence; naive, shallow, but capable of duping even the most psychologically-apt of counterparts, feels more close-to-home and complex than the others. Outwardly confident and superior, inwardly self-conscious and needy, she teases, provokes, and ends up feeling like the real throwaway victim of a piece that doesn't know enough about what it wants to say, but crafts two characters that has enough to keep you entertained for the vast majority of its modest running time. Sienna can hack it with the best of them.

Tang Wei
Lust, Caution

Like Lust, Caution itself Tang Wei's role is a concealing contradiction. Complete with all the makings of the schoolgirl who has an affair with a high-school professor, she is a foxy female that veers far from the standard path through adolescence, and her double-role in this luscious sex-fest skates the boundary between girl and woman extremely finely. A wannabe-rebel and seductive spy she undergoes a transformation but retains that naive, ingestant childishness that feeds her need to mean something to someone. To matter. And when imposed upon by everybody Wei is able to let the resillience and individuality of Mai Tai Tai shine through. Her performance is assured, magnetic, mature, and often reminded me of Greer Garson, whose modesty was surely unrivalled, but given a run for its money by Wei, who like Garson, never really gives any indication that she knows how beautiful, clever, and charismatic she is, although there's an inkling that amidst it all the girl probably does.

Winner: Tang Wei, Lust Caution
Runner Up:
Julie Christie, Away From Her

Sad To Exclude: The aforementioned ladies: Anamaria Marinca, Ellen Page, and the excellent Laura Linney, who I'd say is probably 6th, as she has a much weaker written character than the others.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Addicts 2007: Actress in a Supporting Role

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett
I'm Not There

Blanchett's gender-swapping role is indeed heavily gimmicky in nature, but I found her performance much more ingrained and valuable than a theatrical delve into masculinity. Dylan’s showy physical shtick (his ticks and false bravado) are part of his iconography, and it’s Blanchett’s job to be this impenetrable figure. Of the entire ensemble she is the name BOB DYLAN; the media play-thing, the token rebel, the asshole, and so her role can’t really be pigeon-holed as anything, and neither can she. The success of I’m Not There, and Blanchett herself, is solidified in that her creation doesn't come across as gender-specific, and I’m sure that the Bob Dylan of old wouldn’t acknowledge Blanchett’s version as either male or female (if indeed acknowledge it at all). That’s entirely the point of her performance, and she hammers it home admirably.

Juliet Ellis
It's A Free World...

The reluctant sidekick to Wareing's opportunisitic businesswoman, Rose acts as Angie's moral conscience. Although the two women are essentially a team Ellis knows when to allow Wareing the floor and how much of it to allow. Conservative by nature but a politically passive exponent of Loach's liberal politics, she tackles the flames of Wareing's fiery leading woman, yet shies away from being the superior disapproving friend too often. Ellis gives Rose the self-assurance and social awareness that marks her as a less volatile and desperate creature to her friend, and as a contrast, it helps to make It's a Free World... seem a more careful and ruminative piece than it otherwise might have become.

Jennifer Garner

We've already judged Garner two minutes into her performance. A suburban housewife who sees a baby as the must-have accessory for any bourgeois middle-class couple. But that's because it's what we want to see, and on a repeat viewing it's clear that she doesn't see the role of Vanessa in this way at all, really understanding her purpose in Juno's life. Perhaps guilty of being an obsessive, cautious pessimist Garner's Vanessa is uptight and nowhere close to being likeable. She has all of the environmental factors of a materialist but little of the character, and none of the nature. Backward in coming forward she quickly becomes one of the few non-judgemental characters in the film, and grows into someone worth your sympathy and attention. A performance that stays with you when all is said and done.

Eva Mendes
We Own The Night

Most films are keen to integrate their 'wronged woman' in a way of getting at their precious leading man, and his moral arc. Mendes has more than one opportunity to play her character this way, and, though she can vent her wrath with the best of them, never shies away from her own fragmented mess. In some ways she is blessed, because the film seems keen to give her some individuality, but amidst an airstrike of family politics and exhilarating detective chase she still embeds herself in your mind as the true dilemna of the film. The outsider looking into a world she knows little about.

Tilda Swinton
Michael Clayton

It's to her incredible credit that Tilda Swinton's Karen Crowther veers so far from villainry 101, even in Michael Clayton's more routine moments. Villains are scarcely afforded a breakdown scene in a bathroom. After all, moments of inhibited weakness and vulnerability (excluding hangups about physical appearance) do not fit the 'cold bitch' stereotype. But Swinton re-fashions a hard-faced, ruthless businesswoman into someone bound by a system, acting on their capable but decidedly worn and unsteady feet. It's fascinating character work, and a rich injection into Michael Clayton's smart, slick, but cruisingly familiar setup. If only because she isn't the false, catty corporate representative that one has come to expect. It's a wonder then that her performance won her an Oscar -- the best performance in at least a decade to do so.

Winner: Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
Runner Up: Jennifer Garner - Juno

Sad to Exclude: Natalie Portman, who shines as a gambling addict in Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights. Saoirse Ronan's oscar-nominated turn in Atonement is mature, measured and hella effective. Vanessa Ferlito is the best of the Death Proof girls, and well worth the price of admission alone.