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January was an impossible act to follow but there were still a few good films.  This is what I saw: 

Inherent Vice: the incoherent plot is both the best and the worst thing about Paul Thomas Anderson’s detective thriller.   It looks good and has a great dream like tone but ultimately it left me cold.INHERENT VICE

Trash: Written by Richard Curtis and directed by Stephen Daldry.  showing a more gritty side of Rio concentrating on the backstreets and favelas.  Often darkly funny but ultimately uplifting and rewarding.Trash

Jupiter Ascending:  The thinly written and poorly conceived characters are a waste of Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum.  Ultimately rubbish but enough fun to get away with it.jupiter ascending

Selma: It is criminal that it has been more than more than 50 years since Martin Luther King’s most famous speech.  On the other hand it is fitting that the film is so good.  David Oyelowo is sensational in the lead role.Selma David Oyelowo

Focus: Will Smith and Margot Robbie are likable leads in this con man comedy drama, but the plot is flimsy and the twists signposted.  Fun but forgettable._87C7066.dng

Fifty Shades of Grey:  Groundbreaking erotic thriller about a BDSM relationship, sadly NO! It is a dull and vanilla love story with laughable dialogue, to put it another way Pretty Woman with less edge.fifty shades of grey

Blackhat: Michael Mann is back with a cybercrime thriller.  A solid and enjoyable film let down by a disjointed final act.  A good film but not amongst Mann’s best.blackhat

Project Almanac: Teenage time travel movie that isn’t afraid to refer better films of the genre.  Let down by clichéd characters and a plot that offers nothing new.ProjectAlmanac

The movie of the month is:selma-movie-poster (1)

Now the dust has settled on the Oscars it is worth taking look back at the biggest two awards, Best Picture and Best Director. I thought and indeed hoped Richard Linklater would win for Boyhood, not that I begrudge Birdman and its director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Boyhood was my favourite film of the year, and Birdman would have made my list had it been released last year (Early January in the UK). As I have previously mentioned Birdman was the most directed film and Boyhood has such a bold concept setting it apart from other movies. By the time the awards came along it appeared to be a two horse race with Boyhood winning at the Golden Globes and BAFTA’s and Birdman at the Directors Guild of America and AFI Awards.Alejandro G  Iñárritu

So why did Birdman triumph over Boyhood? It is often mentioned that Actors voting block is the largest in the academy. While the other categories are voted for by their peers, voting for best picture is open to all academy members.  This has resulted a lot of success for actors turned director.  Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, Warren Beaty, Robert Redford, Ben Affleck have all won Oscars for best director, and or their films winning best picture. There was also the recent win for The Artist, a film about Hollywood and actors. And so we come to Birdman’s awards this year, it is a film about actors and acting starring an actor who is reinventing himself in a similar way to the character he plays.Richard Linklater

Is it that simple, are actors patting themselves on the back? Yes and No! Birdman is a worthy winner, but as I have repeatedly bemoaned the absurdity of awards for art, no one film is better than all others. With this in mind, it stands to reason that when faced with a tough choice, voters will go with what they can most associate with, this happens to be a film about actors, or in past years directed by an actor.  So be it. It is certainly an improvement on some of the WTF winners: Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Braveheart (1995), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Chicargo (2002), Crash (2005).

Dom 5We have had the BAFTA’s, The Globes and the awards for every guild you have heard of (and a few you haven’t), this weekend sees the main event, The Oscars.  But before that we have the Dom’s, The Fourth Annual Groovers Awards.  All awards are chosen by me and the criteria for eligibility is decided by me.  The award, is called the “Dom”, if you understand the relevance you need to watch Fandango. 

Best Movie: Boyhood

Easily my favourite movie of the year. boyhood-poster

Best Director: Richard Linklater

One of my favourite directors for two decades wins his first Dom for his masterpiece  Boyhood.richard linklater boyhood

Best Actor: Ralph Fiennes

Anyone who has seen In Bruges will know that Ralph Fiennes  can be funny but I never imagined that he could be anything like as funny as he is in The Grand Budapest Hotel. ralph fiennes the grand budapest hotel

Best Actress: Patricia Arquette

A supporting role in other awards but the centre and heart of my favourite film of the year, Boyhoodpatricia arquette boyhood

Best Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness

Funny clever and utterly brilliant, everything that is great about The Grand Budapest Hotel starts with the script. Wes Anderson Hugo Guinness

Best Documentary: 20,000 Days on Earth

Not actually a documentary by traditional definitions but the award winner is the fictionalised account of Nick Cave’s 20,000 days on earth:20,000 Days on Earth poster

Best Looking Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel

A combination of photography, production design and all the other things that go into putting the directors vision on screen.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is a truly stunning film.  The Grand Budapest Hotel

Movie star of the year: Mia Wasikowska

Returning after appearing in the first Groovers Awards,  movie star of the year goes to Mia Wasikowska: After appearing in Stoker my favourite film of 2013 Mia Wasikowska is rapidly becoming one of my favourite actresses with fantastic performances in Maps to the Stars, The Double, Only Lovers Left Alive and Tracks in 2014.Mia Wasikowska

Fandango Award: Dan Gilroy. 

Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout film-makers of the year: Dan Gilroy, the younger brother of writer director Tony Gilroy.  Dan Gilroy’s first credit was as a writer on Freejack in 1992.  More than twenty years and a handful of screenplays later he came up with Nightcrawler, a debut feature directed with the swagger and confidence of a veteran director. dan gilroy nightcrawlerDom 5

I have never used the expression meh in my life until now, but can’t think of any other way to describe Fifty Shades of Grey.fifty shades of grey poster

I once heard a story about Sleeping Beauty Castle at Euro Disney/Disneyland Paris.  When the plans were revealed  it was stated that this is Europe where we have real castles, and that they would have to make it a lot bigger.  I have no idea if it is true but like the story. I thought of this as I watched Fifty Shades of Grey, it is all a matter of context.  What is the point of the film? As an erotic drama it is a little vanilla in a world that includes Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013).  As an explicit story it may contain a lot of female nudity and a few sex scenes but nothing like Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013).  But at its heart it is neither of these things, it is a romance, and not one that fairs well against Richard Linklater’s before trilogy.  So what is it? All I could think while I watched it was Twilight (2008) for people who grew up watching Pretty Woman (1990).  I thought this before learning the source novel by E.L. James started life as Twilight fan fiction.  With this context it made so much sense.  It isn’t a window into the world of BDSM, but we don’t need a window on the world.  It may have worked in this way a few years ago but today anyone with an internet connection can find real BDSM.fifty shades of grey dakota johnson

In the same way that The Fast and the Furious (2001) hits all the major beats of Point Break (1991), Fifty Shades of Grey follows most of the main plot points of both Pretty Woman and Twilight.  Unfortunately as a fan of neither Pretty Woman nor Twilight, I find them both more interesting that Fifty Shades of Grey.  If you think Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) bites her lip a lot wait until you meet Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson).  I watched the film in a packed cinema, there were a few individuals and a few couples but around 80% of the audience was made up of groups of women.  It is interesting as woman flock to see the film dissenters describe it as degrading to woman.  It could and possible will be debated to for years if the themes of the film are degrading to women, what is clearly degrading to woman (and men) is to give them under-written, undeveloped characters.  This is a great shame as Jamie Dornan is very good as he is in the TV show The Fall, but as with The Fall he is overshadowed by his female co star, Gillian Anderson and Dakota Johnson.  Johnson, daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith and granddaughter of Tippi Hedren is very good and commands the film in the way that Dornan should.  But as with her mother and grandmother who weren’t always cast in the best films I hope she finds a few great roles like they did in films like Something Wild (1986), The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964).fifty shades of grey Jamie Dornan

Since the release of the film there have been reports of E.L. James vetoing Sam Taylor-Johnson’s amendments to the dialogue.  This is a great shame as the dialogue is totally terrible and often cringe worthy.  But Taylor-Johnson has crafted an attractive film and does manage the odd moment of fun; the “business meeting” where the terms of the “contract” are discussed is truly and intentionally (I think) hilarious. Reports that Taylor-Johnson won’t be directing the sequels.  And this takes me back to the start, Fifty Shades of Meh.  For all its moments of drama, comedy and titillation, the film is just a little dull and that is unforgivable for any film.

 

 

adam and eve Only Lovers Left Alive sam and suzy Moonrise Kingdom HER nick and amy gone girl jules and nic the kids are alright jesse and Celine before midnight tom and Gerri another year Jamal and Latika Slumdog millionaire Emma and Adèle Blue Is the Warmest Colour Chris and Tina Sightseers About Time trailer - video Anna and Abel A Most Violent Year Chico and Rita Chico & Rita Anne and Georges amour George Valentin and Peppy Miller the artist

(NOTE: all from films released since I started this site in 2009)

The British Academy Film Awards will be awarded on Sunday.  Here are my predictions along with what I would like to see win in the major categories:

Best Film

  • My Choice: Boyhood
  • Prediction: Boyhood
  • Other nominations: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, Birdman, The Imitation Gameboyhood-poster

 

David Lean Award for Direction

  • My Choice: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Prediction: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Other nominations: Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman, Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, James Marsh for The Theory of Everything:richard linklater boyhood

 

Best Leading Actor

  • My choice:  Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Prediction:  Michael Keaton for Birdman
  • Other nominations: Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game, Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler.ralph fiennes the grand budapest hotel

 

Best Leading Actress

  • My Choice: Reese Witherspoon for Wild (I haven’t seen still Alice)
  • Prediction: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
  • Other nominations: Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl, Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Amy Adams for Big Eyes.Wild

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • My Choice: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
  • Prediction: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
  • Other nominations: Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher, Ethan Hawke for Boyhood, Edward Norton for Birdman, Steve Carell for Foxcatcher.j k simmons whiplash

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • My Choice: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Prediction: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Other nominations: Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game, Emma Stone for Birdman, Imelda Staunton for Pride, Rene Russo for Nightcrawler.patricia arquette boyhood

 

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

  • My choice: Stephen Beresford & David Livingstone for Pride (I haven’t seen Kajaki but have heard great things about it)
  • Prediction: Stephen Beresford & David Livingstone for Pride
  • Other nominations: Elaine Constantine for Northern Soul, Yann Demange &Gregory Burke for ’71, Hong Khaou for Lilting, Paul Katis & Andrew de Lotbiniere for Kajaki.Pride

 

Best Original Screenplay

  • My Choice: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Prediction: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Other nominations: Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo for Birdman.richard linklater boyhood

 

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

  • My Choice: Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl
  • Prediction:  Graham Moore for The Imitation Game
  • Other nominations: Jason Hall for American Sniper, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game, Anthony McCarten for The Theory of Everything, Paul King for PaddingtonGillian Flynn

 

Best Cinematography

  • My Choice: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman
  • Prediction: Dick Pope for Mr. Turner
  • Other nominations: Hoyte Van Hoytema for Interstellar, Robert D. Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ryszard Lenczewski for Ida: Lukasz Zal,emmanuel lubezki birdman

 

Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film

  • My Choice: Pride or Under the Skin
  • Prediction: Paddington
  • Other nominations: ’71, The Imitation Game, The Theory of EverythingUnder The Skin

 

EE Rising Star Award

  • My Choice: Jack O’Connell
  • Prediction: Shailene Woodley
  • Other nominations: Miles Teller, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Margot RobbieJack OConnell

 

Best Film Not in the English Language

  • Unfortunately, being the only one shown at my local cinema Trash is the only film I have seen so have no opinion on this category.  The nominations are: Ida, The Lunchbox, Two Days, One Night, Leviathan, Trash.Trash

 

Possibly the best month of movies since I started the Movie of the Month feature.  had they come out last year Birdman, Whiplash, Ex Machina and Kingsman would all have made my top ten. 

Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance): An actor once famous for playing a superhero plays an actor once famous for playing a superhero.  I fully expect Michael Keaton to win the best actor Oscar.  Probably director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s best film to date.michael keaton birdman

The Theory Of Everything: The story of Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane.  Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are both excellent but the film is a little conventional and pedestrian.the theory of everything

Into the Woods: Adaptation of Stephen Sondheim musical where The Brothers Grimm characters trip over each other in the woods.  Surprisingly enjoyable for a musical but lacking the depth I was promised by fans of the stage version.  Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick are great, Johnny Depp is terrible, Meryl Streep is okay but not worthy of an Oscar nomination.INTO THE WOODS

Taken 3: Plot spoiler (not really its in the trailer) Famke Janssen’s character is killed in the first act, she probably insisted on this so she wouldn’t have to make a fourth film.  Not as bad as has been reported but offering nothing new to the franchise or genre.take 3

American Sniper:  A return to form for director Clint Eastwood.  It has divided opinion being accused as being both flag waving propaganda and unpatriotic.  For me it tells the story of a troubled man  disturbed by his experiences told in such a way that it is open to interpretation.   The fact it is promoting such debate is a good thing.  With a box-office fast approaching $300million it is Eastwood’s highest-grossing film to date.American Sniper

Whiplash: A young drummer a prestigious music school joins the band a of a demanding teacher/conductor Fletcher.  One of the most intense films I have seen in years.  I expect J.K. Simmons to pick up the best supporting actor Oscar.Whiplash-5547.cr2

Wild: The true story of Cheryl Strayed, a young woman who decided to walk the thousand-mile Pacific Crest Trail.  We begin to understand  her motivation through flashbacks as the film unfolds.  Well constructed with great use of music and an excellent performance from Reese Witherspoon.Wild

Ex Machina: Is Alex Garland’s directorial debut an exploration of what it is to be human, a psychological thriller or just a sci-fi drama? It really doesn’t matter, it is just brilliant. Ex Machina

A Most Violent Year: A misleading title and trailer aside this is a classy crime thriller with fantastic performances from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.a most violent year

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Both a homage to and a parody of James Bond, it scores points for being fun, funny and clever.  It is extremely violent and there are aspects of the plot that will dived opinion.kingsman

The Gambler: Remake of the 1974 film of the same name written by James Toback and starring James Caan.  The sometimes unconvincing Mark Wahlberg is very good despite playing an unlikeable character.THE GAMBLER

Birdman, Whiplash, Ex Machina are all better films, the movie of the month is Kingsman simply for how much fun it is and how much I am looking forward to seeing it again. Kingsmankingsman posters

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