Tag Archives: Meryl Streep

The Oscars (better late than never)

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It’s been a busy few weeks but the intention HAD been there to do an Oscars prediction post. Good old Matt had inspired me in his own inimitable way to take in the films and, with the exception of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (and THE READER…. hmmm), I’d managed to see the top contenders for the main awards in good enough time to make a set of, maybe not predictions, but bold claims on who should win.

So here we go, who won and who (I think) should have won…….. I didn’t do incredibly well in terms of agreeing with the academy. I’ll only cover the big 6 or I’ll be here all night….

BEST PICTURE
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Now I’m gonna be honest here. I knew SM would get the nod. It’s a very well made, entertaining, beautifully shot, acted and directed work from Danny Boyle. I have to say though, and I can say this with confidence even though I’ve not seen THE READER, FROST / NIXON was the picture from the bunch that had me absolutely transfixed from start to finish. Whether that was purely because of the extremely interesting, non fiction subject matter or not, the fact remains, it moved and consumed me in a way SLUMDOG couldn’t.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Sean Penn: MILK

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“This was undoubtedly the shock of the night” said numerous red carpet commentators and I think, as most people probably do, that Mickey Rourke was robbed. That’s not to take anything away from Sean Penn, he’s by far the best thing about the MILK film and you totally forget you’re watching him act. Mickey Rourke however, gives a depth of performance that maybe only comes along once a decade far less once a year. You could tell there was a lot of himself in that role which lent such honest weight to it without it being a case of pitying the guy. We’re with him for the whole picture, when you witness him dragging his battered body into the ring for another pounding you can almost feel the pain he’s going through.

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And let’s not forget the Rourke of circa RUMBLEFISH.

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BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Kate Winslett: THE READER

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Kate Winslet?? Best Actress???

I had Meryl Streep for this one and my reasons are irrefutable. Firstly: Streep is amazing in this film. Secondly: It was the only movie in this category I saw so who else was there to choose? CHANGELING was the only other picture I would pay to watch from this group. Film critic Mark Kermode thinks that Winslet deserves the award, just not for this film, in his opinion she should have got it for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, another movie I’ve yet to see. Does anyone concur with this take?

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Heath Ledger: THE DARK KNIGHT

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It was always going to be the case and I agree with it completely. There’s no way on earth this is purely a sympathy vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, Josh Brolin is good but I think if anyone from MILK got nominated it should have been Emile Hirsch for his utterly convincing and compelling performance as Cleve Jones. Heath Ledger, however, creates this heaving, magnetic, mesmerising character you can’t take your eyes off. When The Joker leaves the screen, you want him back as quickly as possible, you want to see more disapearing pencils, he’s the bad guy you fell good routing for. Ledger completely abandons himself in this role and leaves you with a dark presence long after the credits have ended. Truly amazing and thoroughly deserved.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz: VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

SPAIN CINEMA

My initial thought when I heard the results was that Marisa Tomei should have got this for her role as Cassidy in THE WRESTLER. I revisited VCB last night though and now agree with our friends at the Academy. Penelope Cruz is rather good isn’t she? I was going to do a Cruz double by sticking on VOLVER after it but then I would run the risk of starting to like the woman. It’s a compulsion I’m determined to fight for no good reason.

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Yep, you’ve gotta hand him this one without any real complaint. There were other movies in the Best Picture category that held my attention more the SM but the sheer audacity, energy and skill with which this film was made should be applauded long and loud. I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle, as a director he’s always pushing the envelope and never takes the easy route. There is a sincerity in his films that clearly reflect the man himself, he’s one of these guys that when you hear them talking about cinema, you know they mean it from the heart and you can’t help but take serious notice. Scorsese is another one. Well done Danny. Here’s hoping the British film industry realises finally that it’s not America’s runt brother.

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The Film That Switched A Light On

I’m going to start by directly addressing the reason people have a problem with this movie, and with the director, the scene below demonstrates both perfectly.

I was going to quote a whole section of Richard Schickel’s book WOODY ALLEN: A LIFE IN FILM that deals with the whole Soon-Yi scandal. I’ve decided not to as I’d rather talk about the work but I think this paragraph goes some way to providing closure.

…….. “Moreover he emerged [from the paparazzi / court case craziness] with something he had not enjoyed before – a happy marriage. Soon-Yi is a very intelligent, attentive and forthright woman; in the exchanges with Woody that I have witnessed, one senses a serious and well balanced relationship in which, clearly, she is not in the least bit dominated by his fame, accomplishments, or brains. They listen to each other sympathetically, and when they disagree it is rather obviously within the parameters of a sympathetic affection”……..

It’s this chapter of Woody Allen’s life that influences many opinions on his work. I’ve lost count of the amount of time I’ve heard the phrase “I can’t watch his films – he’s a creep – he had an affair with his daughter”. I’ll no doubt need to provide further evidence that this is far from the truth but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy myself talking about the film that inspired me to make films, the film that led me to fall in love with New York, the film I still count as my favourite picture of all time:

MANHATTAN

Woody Allen had decided to do a picture in black and white with an anamorphic aspect ratio prior to writing MANHATTAN. He and cinematographer Gordon Willis had concluded over dinner that to do a picture in such a style would present some interesting creative problems which could hopefully lead to some beautiful solutions. One can only thank god that MANHATTAN was the movie he wrote following that discussion.

The opening scene is a wonderful, spine tingling piece of cinema. George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue swells and rolls, introducing the audience to a New York that is not portrayed in a glitzy Hollywood way. We see trash on the sidewalks, throngs of people paying no attention to each other, workers fixing the street, the Hudson River ferry pulling into berth. It’s INCREDIBLY alluring. The city was always intended to be a character in this film, no surprise given the title.

The climax of this sequence is a fireworks display photographed in Central Park. I’d never have believed, prior to seeing this movie, that fireworks could look so beautiful in black and white. The larger explosions reveal hidden detail in the buildings for a split second….. It’s just great.

Even watching the small youtube section fills me with glee, have a look.

The picture follows the main protagonist (Played by Allen) Isaac Davis as his life slowly unravels around him. His ex wife (EXECELENTLY played by Meryl Streep) is writing a book about their break up which causes him great pain and anxiety, this after leaving him for another woman. His relationship with his younger girlfriend (Mariel Hemmingway) leaves him unsatisfied despite the girl being besotted by him. His career as a television writer comes crashing to an end when he quits. He then falls for the woman (Diane Keaton) with whom his best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) is cheating on his wife….. That’s what I love about this movie, Isaac is never on top.


Isaac and Tracy

Of course, being Manhattan, (everyone has an analyst) it’s not only Isaac that is going through emotional turmoil. No one, except the wonderfully naive and pure Tracy (and maybe his ex wife) is happy with their existence. Diane Keaton plays Mary, the 3rd point of the love triangle formed By Isaac and Yale, her character is a typical New York intellectual type, forever in a crisis but with little in the way of solution. Her fragility is hidden behind a veneer of pseudo strength derived from pretension. Yale, living a lie with his wife who wants him to move to the country and have kids, is no surer of his path than Mary. The whole film plays out at a perfect pace and allows the audience to get into every character, not just Allen’s.

The scene below shows the triangle being formed. It opens with the most famous scene of the picture, photographed by the Queensboro Bridge (I went on a solo pilgrimage to find the site when in New York last year) with Isaac and Mary. The phone call between Yale and Isaac is charming as is the exchange between Yale and Mary in Bloomingdales. Allen crams a lot of information into this 3 and a half minutes but it never feels rushed……

Although Isaac seems to go from one trauma to the next we never really sympathise for him. I never really find myself on his side. Tracy is spoken to in a condescending manner due to her age yet it is she who is the stable, rational, decent one. I always feel that Isaac deserves everything thing he gets yet can’t help but like him…… he’s only human after all.

Despite the generous helping of neuroticism we’re given in this film it ends with a subtle trace of hope. For those of you that have seen the film, you’ll know what I’m on about. Those of you that haven’t, you have to see this film. I’m willing to come over to anyone’s house and personally show the picture.

Allen himself loathed the film. When Stig Bjorkman, whilst interviewing Woody, pointed out ” I’ve heard, or read that you were very uncertain or very unhappy with Manhattan”, Woody answered “…. When I finished it? Yes, I’m never happy with my films when I finish them. Just about always. And in the case of Manhattan I was so disappointed that I didn’t want to open it. I wanted to ask united Artists not to release it. I wanted to offer them to make one free movie, if they would just throw it away” …….

What does he know?

I’ll leave you with a great scene that again gives lots of information in a short space of time. When out on a drive with Yale, his wife and Mary, Isaac spots his ex wife’s newly published book in a shop. They buy it and start reading it aloud. Note how the camera lingers on Isaac as his every weakness is revealed via print….. A lovely moment from a simply tremendous film.