Academy Awards 2014 Highlights

It’s fair to say that this year’s Academy Awards marked a departure from previous years. Despite Ellen DeGeneres’ humour falling slightly flat at times, the event was considerably less of a snooze/cringe/misogyny-fest  in comparison to 2013’s We Saw Your Boob’s, the cast of Les Miserables’ ensemble performance and general hosting fail by Seth MacFarlane. The atmosphere – both viewing at home and in the audience, was a much more relaxed affair. Here are a few of the highlights:

The big winners were Gravity (7 awards) and 12 Years A Slave (3)

 Meaning that Alfonso Cuarón was the event’s first Mexican recipient of the Best Director award, and Steve McQueen its first black Best Picture winner.

Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress, meaning that J-Law can resume being adorable, as she did when attempting to steal Lupita’s gong.

jlaw-lupita

 Despite having 10 nominations, American Hustle walked away empty-handed.

This made The Wolf of Wall Street’s losses a lot more tolerable.

Cate Blanchett gave an inspiring acceptance speech – calling out Hollywood for its denial that women-led films can’t be box-office hits, saying:

I’m so very proud that Blue Jasmine stayed in the cinemas for as long as it did. And thank you to Sony Classics, to Michael and Tom for their extraordinary support. For so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.

Lupita, Meryl and Amy got their dance on.

And erm, Ellen achieved the most retweeted selfie of all time.

Winners:

Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Adapted Screenplay – 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)

Best Original Screenplay – Her (Spike Jonze)

Best Animated Feature – Frozen

Best Cinematography – Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)

Best Costume Design – The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)

Best Directing – Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

Best Documentary Feature – 20 Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen, Caitrin Rogers)

Best Documentary Short – The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke, Nicholas Reed)

Best Film Editing – Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger)

Best Foreign Language – FilmThe Great Beauty (Italy)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews)

Best Original Score – Gravity (Steven Price)

Best Original Song – Let It Go – Frozen

Best Production Design – The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn)

Best Animated Short Film – Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares)

Best Live Action Short Film – Helium (Anders Walter, Kim Magnusson)

Best Sound Editing – Gravity (Glenn Freemantle)

Best Sound Mixing –  Gravity (Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro)

Best Visual Effects – Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould)


Watch Olivia Wilde Discuss the Role of Women in Hollywood

This clip shows actor Olivia Wilde discuss the limited roles available to women working in Hollywood as part of a panel titled State of Female Justice, noting the unwillingness of film distributors to green-light projects with female leads. Wilde demonstrates a great awareness of her position in the industry, stating that as storytellers, it is up to filmmakers (herself included) to educate the public on equality. She makes reference to Alien and Salt, as being two films starring female protagonists – Sigourney Weaver and Angelina Jolie – which had originally been written with male leads in mind.

As this chart shows, women make up half of cinema audiences (if not slightly more), rendering the old supply and demand argument for male-centric movie content invalid.

cinema-demographics

As can be seen by the box office success of  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity and Frozen in 2013, audiences are not unwilling to watch female-led movies; however, as long as the majority of parts written for women are that of the throwaway love interest/long-suffering wife, cinema will continue to be created with male driven plots and male audiences in mind. This theory can not only be applied to women, but also to racial minorities: for example, most commercial productions still promote tired stereotypes of African Americans (see use of the angry black woman cliche in Anchorman 2), rather than as multi-faceted individuals. Diversity in Hollywood merely requires the formation of well-written characters, irrelevant of gender or race.


The Wolf of Wall Street – Stratton Oakmont is America

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the glamourisation of the lavish lifestyle depicted in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which charts the true story of young and upcoming stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s rise, as he eventually becomes known as The Wolf (of Wall Street). To say that such Quaalude quaffing behaviour isn’t reveled in here would be an understatement – as we soon come to learn, this is a business that requires the constant consumption  hookers and cocaine to survive – but the underlying theme of greedy self-interest is never lost in the process.

This lack of sentiment for the other 99% manifests itself in a number of ways. An early cameo by Matthew McConaughey, playing Belfort’s boss, tells us of how little importance the workings of the stock market really is – the critical part is the money to be made for those in charge. This is a great scene, and introduces the chest-thumping bravado which will continue to play a role throughout the rest of the film (a ritual which worked its way into the film as this is something that McConaughey does while on-set) as it is then appropriated by Belfort’s own company Stratton Oakmont. Then there is the internal monologue of Belfort, used previously by Scorsese to excellent effect in Goodfellas, which is constantly used to explain that all that matters is personal wealth – after all, Belfort is living in a country which treats everything as a commodity to be sold.

The contrast of this message with scenes of debauchery work really well in providing a work that does not come off as a forceful morality tale; it’s just too damn funny for that. The Wolf of Wall Street is filled to the brim with black humour, particular highlights include the reactions of Belfort and his side-kick Donnie smoking crack in a small room behind a bar together, as well as a later Quaalude-fuelled fight between the two. Credit really must be given to Leo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill for the all-out performances they’ve put in, DiCaprio particularly is on top-form here – it’s difficult to recall a performance of his which was so gleefully exuberant as it is here. Writer Terence Winter should also be commended for his script, there are so many quotable lines of dialogue present here that just when you think you’ve heard one that cannot be bettered, along comes the next.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a glorious work of cinema, one which I’ve seen twice this week and can’t wait to watch again. Wonderfully outrageous whilst always maintaining a social commentary, Scorsese and DiCaprio will have to create something extraordinary in future for this to be topped.


Best of the Golden Globes 2014

Oh to live the lives of the rich and famous/beautiful. But still, the Golden Globes are a fun ceremony, and this year’s proved to be no different.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler continuing to perform a top-notch hosting job, poking fun numerous times at the Hollywood double standard:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus sitting with the film crowd instead of the lowly TV actors (she was nominated twice):

Julia Louis-Dreyfus eating a hot-dog:

Joaquin Phoenix showing up, and looked like he was having a genuinely good time:

phoenix-gg

phoenix-gg2

A drunk Emma Thomson took her cocktail onstage before throwing her Louboutin’s away:

Awkward moment between Bono and Diddy:

Bono quite happy to share a moment with Amy Poehler:

(who then won in her category):

The crew of Breaking Bad’s Best TV Drama acceptance speech:

Leo DiCaprio finally wins something (his last GG was for The Aviator in 2005 – in Dicaprio terms, that’s a long time…is an Oscar finally on the cards?):

So did Matthew McConaughey, who also gave an amazing acceptance speech:

Having up until now been overlooked in such a promising list of nominations, Steve McQueen and 12 Years A Slave walked away with Best Picture – Drama:


The Antichrist that is Lars Von Trier

After being left feeling astounded at the masterpiece that was 2011’s Melancholia, I took it upon myself to delve into this director’s back catalogue.

I started off with Dancer in the Dark, thinking this was going to be some uplifting tale of a blind woman who rose up from her difficult social circumstances to make it into the glamorous world of Hollywood, boy was I wrong…what I got was theft, murder and death by hanging, all to the hypnotising soundtrack of Bjork. It was brutal seeing the suffering this woman went through to try and prevent her son from suffering the same illness that she did, but it just left me feeling cold and empty.

My most significant memory of this film was this…which came years before I even saw it.

Next I tried Dogville. I read about the themes which interested me as well as the casting of Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany. However after about 20 minutes I gave up, unable to get to grips with the chalk lined setting. I’d like to revisit this film but its 178 minute long running time along with the ‘unrealistic’ setting doesn’t exactly spark my interest.

Afterwards I turned to Breaking the Waves, which I’m still avoiding. I’ve heard it’s Von Trier’s best work and although again the narrative themes sound appealing, just imagining these compared to what I’ve seen already fills me with dread.

This brings me to the main event, Antichrist, a film I’ve been daring myself to watch for at least a year and didn’t build up the courage until last night. Well, I had already read a scene by scene synopsis to really let myself know what I was in for – this actually made it sound much more gruesome than what actually unfolded.

The opening shower sex scene was horrible; I didn’t need to see that penetration. The actual death of the child left me completely unaffected. Without going into an ENTIRE plot summary, ‘She’ (Charlotte Gainsbourg) becomes deeply depressed and anxious after this death, which I forgot to mention occurred at the same time as the ‘act of love’ was in full action. ‘He’ (William Dafoe) is a psychologist who tries to help his wife through this, eventually taking a trip to ‘Eden’, a forest which She admits to being the place she fears the most.

This was where I expected an all-out gore-fest. What I got was a nasty scene where She masturbated underneath a tree, before having sex with He, then throwing a piece of wood, rock, or whatever onto his penis. She then proceeds to masturbate him, while blood spurts out of his penis. He remains unconscious the whole time, while She then screwdrives her way through his leg and pushes and pulls a finger out of the bloody hole. She then cuts off her clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors, He wakes up and strangles her then burns her body and attempts to make his way out of the woods.

Oh by the way, there’s also a talking fox.

Antichrist contains many elements which intrigue me – She wrote her thesis on the persecution of women through the ages, the work She read while researching this then led to her concluding that women are evil and I assume the burning of her body was some kind of metaphor for this. However I really don’t see what all the fuss was about apart from including gutsy performances by mainstreamish actors. I’m renowned for my fear of horror and was actually disappointed by the lack of extremity I’d heard so much talk of.

On the other hand, Melancholia is a genuine piece of art. Von Trier’s next project is ‘The Nymphomaniac’. Having just watched the trailer for this, I can’t see myself venturing out to the local Cineworld to view it, but will likely make the effort to catch it on DVD. It does make me wonder what torture he’ll plan for his female characters next. Think I’ll choose The Idiots as my next venture into this director’s work, apparently it includes some humour.

Here’s the Nymphomaniac trailer (I think we can all agree that the casting of Shia LaBeouf is enough to make us feel a little bit squeamish towards it):


Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

In Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, director Michael Rapaport documents the formation of the hip hop group right up to the current day. Containing interviews with the three members as well as a host of music stars, including Pharrell Williams and the Beastie Boys, this film shows just how influential A Tribe Called Quest have been to the hip hop genre since the 80s.

Detailing every aspect of their history, from their childhoods in Queens to their many disagreements and Phyfe’s struggle with diabetes, the group do not shy away from any subject matter. It is striking how open and caring each of them seem, often becoming quite emotional when recounting moments from their past.

Rapaport switches between interviews and archival footage, first recounting their musical achievements, influences and album releases before focusing on the band’s split and feud between Q-Tip and Phyfe. This aspect takes up quite a lot of the running time, resulting in a slightly uneven pace but does not stop Beats, Rhymes and Life from being a humorous and meaningful film for all involved and the audience. Complimented with great music, this can be enjoyed for fans of the group and newcomers alike.


The Veronica Mars Movie: What we Know

Despite my mixed feelings about Kickstarter funding (Tom Lenk – I’m looking at you and your lack of rewards three years later), the success of the Veronica Mars movie project is a huge victory for the show’s fans, while also highlighting the ever-changing nature of the film industry. Such as with Netflix’s original programming achievements such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards,  viewers now hold a greater amount of control over the media they consume. They can view such shows when they want and in whatever format they want.

Despite Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas and lead actress Kristen Bell having been willing and ready to create the movie for many years now, the studio whom owned the rights to the show were unconvinced of such a projects likelihood of turning a profit. However, now, thanks to the generosity of the show’s Marshmallows, the film is now complete, and will be released within the next few months. So what do we know about the Veronica Mars  movie?

- It’s scheduled for release in US cinemas in March this year.

- It’s unclear whether the film will have an international release, but the DVD will be available to buy from April.

- Most of the show’s original main cast will return, including – Veronica (Kristen Bell), Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), Logan (Jason Dohring), Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Weevil (Francis Capra), Dick (Ryan Hansen), Gia (Krysten Ritter), Mac (Tina Majorino), and Leo (Max Greenfield).

- There will also be appearances from other famous faces, such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Justin Long and James Franco.

- Veronica is now a big shot lawyer, but will return to Neptune to help out in a case involving old-flame Logan Echolls.

- There will be a Neptune High ten year school reunion, where sparks are likely to fly.

- From the trailer, it is clear that Veronica has someone new in her life, but on her return to her old town, old feelings may (hopefully) re-emerge with Logan.

Check out the trailer for yourself below:


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