Tag Archives: Slumdog Millionaire

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

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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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CHE

I’d gone to the cinema yesterday hoping to witness first hand what the fuss surrounding SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was all about. There’s more hyperbole flying about for that picture than there is for Barack Obama.

As usual, I hadn’t checked the schedule beforehand and was early… or late, so rather than wait in the bar for an hour I decided to select an alternative.

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Steven Soderbergh is a director who’s generally been under my radar. I recall watching SOLARIS (the only pre CHE Soderbergh film I’ve seen) and hating it! Now I’ll generally try to find at least one redeeming feature about a film but I felt that watching George Clooney in this movie was like being trapped in a very boring washing machine. I’ve now decided to watch the Andrei Tarkovsky version and the Soderbergh version back to back. More on that next week…… If I don’t find myself trapped in suspended animation.

CHE was rather good though.

Walking to the cinema I happened to be listening to the Filmspotting podcast and they were speaking to Soderbergh about this very film that I never knew I was going to see. A couple of things he said struck me as very interesting.

Firstly he spoke of the method, the approach to making the picture. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the iconic standing of the man. One only needs to walk down a street, into a student union or go to any music festival to be faced with countless t-shirts showing his image. The story of Alberto Korda, the man who captured the famous image, is an interesting one. Read a little here.

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Anyway, Soderbergh quite rightly decided to discard this almost mythical reverence and concentrate purely on method. He’s interested in showing us how, not why. That, I think, is a brave approach and one which he should be applauded for. The Filmspotting interviewer thought he came out of the film knowing no more about CHE than he did before, which was very little, but with a better understanding of the process surrounding revolution. I’m not sure I agree with him on that. Of course, a bio pic is probably the worst route to gaining an understanding of anyone but I do feel you get an idea of his commitment, his beliefs and his morality, all important facets of a person and they were shown extensively here, albeit through the subjective lens of the filmmaker.

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Secondly, on a more technical level, Soderbergh spoke of shooting the entire film on the digital RED ONE camera. This is a smallish unit which records the image onto a flash card which can then be loaded directly into editing software…. I’m sickened to say this but it looked amazing. It’s truly the first digital example that’s made me think twice about my staunch and stubborn love for celluloid or rather rethink my consistent cynicism surrounding digital technology. That’s not to say I’m going to curb my desire to shoot a number of films on film……

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Benicio Del Toro, as always, is superb in his understated portrayal of Che and Demian Bichir is a very convincing Fidel Castro. These are only 2 great performances amongst a solid cast.

If you’ve screwed up the timings of the film you’ve gone to see and find yourself at a loose end, I suggest you check out CHE. Hell, why not check it out intentionally?

Oh, and I also recommend the Filmspotting podcast. Available on itunes or at their website here.