The topical period piece is hardly a new phenomenon. Examining our past such that we might examine our present is a function of art, and if executed well a surefire way to be on everyone’s mind come awards season.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 tells the story of the aftermath of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. During that event, several groups came to the city to protest the war in Vietnam. Thousands of people protested for days before violence broke out, and the situation devolved into what we now know to be a police riot. The film picks up the following year when eight men, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale are on trial for conspiracy to incite a riot.
Aaron Sorkin has been developing this film for years, but it’s hard to imagine a world where the timing of its release could be better.
In 1968 8 men –Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale– were charged with conspiracy and inciting a riot following the massive anti-Vietnam War protest at the Democratic Convention.
With the government wanting to send a message to protesters following what would later be classified as a police riot, this would become the trial of the year and a big moment in 1960s America. Aaron Sorkin has been working on this screenplay for ever a decade, and now has brought it to screen as director as well. Let’s take a look.
It boggles my mind that they cast Johnny Depp for this entire franchise and Colin Farrell for just the first film, but here we are. In any event, continuing the comic con catch up, here’s the new **Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald** trailer:
The Golden Globes are my favourite award show. The combination of humour and sincerity that can only be achieved when A-List celebrities, precious auteurs and television “we’re just happy to be here” actors are shoved sardine-like into a hotel ballroom and given as much booze as they can (or can’t) handle. An extra hat-tip this year to the Beverly Hilton who forgot to turn on the AC making melting orange spray tan the look of the evening.
This year, however, wasn’t quite the shitshow that the Globes can sometimes be. Amy Poehler & Tina Fey did a solid ten and then, as happens every year, twitter questioned where they went for the next 2 hours. The audience seemed to laugh hardest at how they introduced Amal Clooney to America:
“Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria and was selected for a three person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”
Quickly followed by massive gasps at their series of Bill Cosby rape jokes & pill/pudding pop impressions. Fun fact re: Amal, she actually sewed her own gloves the morning of the Awards. And when Ryan Seacrest interviewed the couple on the red carpet she pointed out the “Je Suis Charlie” button on her bag “in solidarity with the people of France”.
It wouldn’t be the last time the recent Charlie Hebdo tragedy was mentioned. In fact the Hollywood Foreign Press Association President talked about how important free speech is whether it be North Korea or Paris to a standing ovation. Helen Mirren, nominated for her role as a French chef in the100 Foot Journey, wore a fountain pen pinned to her lapel.
The evening overall seemed to be sending a message of diversity. Breakout star Gina Rodriguez won Best Actress in a TV Musical or Comedy for her leading role on Jane the Virgin, a show which fluidly slips between Spanish & English. In her acceptance speech she said how she was grateful to represent “a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes”. (The title for this piece “I Can & I Did” came from how she paid tribute to her father.) Maggie Gyllenhaal won Best Actress in a Miniseries for the Honourable Woman, a show in which she played an arms dealer trying to reconcile things between Israel & Palestine, and gave quite the feminist speech.
The Amazon show Transparent won for Best TV Series, and the star Jeffrey Tambor won for Best Actor in a TV Musical or Comedy. A show about a Transgender person aired on a non-cable service won twice. And everyone cheered. The movie Pride was nominated (and I suspect, introduced for the first time to North American audiences) about UK gay activists who raised money to help during the Miners’ Strike. Matt Bomer got to thank his husband after winning best Supporting Actor in a Made for TV Film (the Normal Heart), which was about the AIDS epidemic.
Common & John Legend won for Best Original Song ‘Glory’ from the film about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, Selma. Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt won a best Supporting Actress award for her work during a storyline about rape. Eddie Redmayne won best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama about the life of Stephen Hawking (the Theory of Everything) and becoming paralyzed from ALS. Julianne Moore won Best Actress (Still Alice), beating all the younger nominees, in a role about a women with early onset Alzheimer’s. And Richard Linklater won Best Director for Boyhood (which also won Best Picture) for filming an indie movie over 12 years.
The message from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association this year was clear: Be different. Be brave. Be you.
_The Theory of Everything_ has all the right ingredients to be a major award contender. It’s a period set drama that has happened within our lifetimes, it has some great talent in the main roles, and it’s about a world-famous scientist who everyone loves. Sometimes a film comes together to be more than the sum of its ingredients. Other times, like this time, it doesn’t.
_The Theory of Everything_ isn’t bad though, it’s just that it suffers from all the problems that biopics tend to suffer from and the two great central performances aren’t quite enough to elevate the film above that.
_Jupiter Ascending_ was originally slated for release this past July and many people, myself included, were looking forward to it. Then it got pushed back to February 2015 and we’re not entirely sure why. The Wachowskis say they need more time to finish it up but is the film a mess? Were they worried it couldn’t compete?
Well there’s a new trailer and it looks like it can compete.
Eddie Redmayne & Felicity Jones star as Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane and how they met in University. Until this moment I hadn’t heard about this movie, or known much about Hawking’s life before the Hawking we all think of today. It’s being released in the US on November 7th. I’m putting it at a dark horse Oscar contender for best actor.
Also starring David Thewlis (Harry Potter), Emily Watson (Punch-Drunk Love), Charlie Cox (Boardwalk Empire) & Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones).
I was meant to have seen a new movie this week but I’m on vacation and things got out of hand so I did not (yet).
Because I’m on vacation though I have seen a boat load of movies and thought I’d briefly talk about some of the ones I have seen, specifically the three I watched which are nominated for best picture at this years Oscars.
### Les Misérables
I can see why Les Misérables is nominated for all the awards. It’s a big budget production of one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Hugh Jackman is great and Anne Hathaway is amazing as Fantine and they are both deserving of their actings nominations. The entire cast is pretty great in point of fact, with the debatable exception of Russell Crowe who while he isn’t bad does appear a bit uncomfortable throughout. Maybe that makes sense for Javert but it didn’t sit right with me.
Where the film fails for me is the directing. Sure, the film looks pretty amazing and to be honest I really like the live singing aspect –if you hadn’t heard already, everyone sang their parts live on set rather than lip syncing pre-recorded performances– as it means they had more leeway to actually act out their performances rather than match what they did before. However, a great deal of the film is shot in closeup on the performers face.
I dreamed a dream, in particular, a song that would do well by some staging/movement, is filmed with Anne Hathaway just sitting there belting it out with the camera pointed at her face. Valjean’s Soliloquy is a little better in that he gets the move around but the camera is locked on his face and he’s looking _right at the camera_ the entire time so you don’t really get to see any of what’s going on other than his lips moving.
I think I get what director Tom Hooper was going for, trying to make it intimate, however in the end it’s weird to think that a musical with such grandiose songs is filmed in such a small way and to be honest I don’t think it really works.
**Conclusion:** See it. It’s worth seeing just for the singing. Oscar is Anne Hathaway’s to lose at this point, and while I respect it’s nomination for best picture I don’t think it should win. Tom Hooper isn’t nominated for best director and I am fine with that.
I like stories about heroism, but what I love about Argo is that it’s such a quiet story about heroism. No epic gun fights, no explosions, no car chases, just the constant threat of being caught.
Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, the man who orchestrated the rescue of 6 diplomatic officers in hiding in 1979 revolutionary Iran. The idea is to get them out by claiming they are a film crew scouting exotic locations for a Star Wars rip off called Argo.
The story is brilliant from start to finish. It mixes just the right amount of humour into the dramatic script, mostly supplied by Alan Arkin as the hollywood producer recruited to help sell the idea of the fake movie to the public.
Arkin is gold here, it’s the type of role he excels at playing. He’s nominated for an Oscar and it’s well deserved.
Affleck himself is good too, playing Mendez very reservedly, reflecting a man under stress from being responsible for these peoples lives but also going through a separation and trying to maintain a relationship with his kid.
I happen to think that Affleck is a great director as well. Yes, he’s made a lot of better acting choices lately but this is his their feature film and the third time he’s hit it out of the park.
I love spy films, but in particular a spy film that’s executed in such a way to be entirely believable with real stress and peril for the characters (even when you know how it ends) is a difficult thing to pull off.
**Conclusion:** Must see. Irksome that Affleck, who already won a Golden Globe for directing this, isn’t nominated for the Oscar. Make no mistake, this is a much better film that the one I’m about to talk about.
### Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook is a good movie. Maybe even a great one, and i can see why so many people are connecting with it. It’s a fantasy story, that’s why.
This is a movie that for 2 whole acts shows us characters with real problems and then in the third act everyone lives happily ever after and everything s fine and all the problems seem to be gone.
Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress and I’m going to say right now that she deserves the Golden Golden Globe she won and the Oscar I think she will win, but this is a role tailor made to win Oscars, the slightly crazy receiving sex addict “bird with a broken wing who is just quirky enough to counteract the male leads crazy” character. Hell, it might be more tailor made than the “prostitute with a heart of gold struggling to support her child in a situation that grows ever more dire with each frame that passes” that Anne Hathaway gets to play as Fantine.
Well, maybe not, but she’s still amazing and Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro both stand out as well. Make no mistake, they all acted the shit out of this.
It’s just that the third act is both entirely predictable and doesn’t really jive with the rest of the movie for me. It devolves from something interesting into a series of movie cliches. There is literally a point in this movie where I could have turned it off because I knew everything else that was going to happen.
I can see why people connect with this movie, but I don’t see why it’s nominated for best picture of the year.
**Conclusion:** Definitely see it. Worth it for Jennifer Lawrence alone even if her character is unbelievable. Just maybe don’t expect it to be as good as everyone told you it is.
### Wrapping up
I’ve seen almost all the best picture nominees now and am starting to have a better idea what I think should win. More on that closer to the date in question. In the mean time, what did you guys think of these three films? Are they worthy of the nomination? Did any performances stand out? Comment below!