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A few years ago I set out to write a list of my top ten sports movies. I rapidly came to the conclusion that my list was full of Baseball and Boxing movies and little else. I gave up on the idea and published lists of my favourite Baseball and Boxing movies. Returning to the same idea from a different direction, my favourite sports movies limited to one movie per sport:

Rugby (league): This Sporting Life (1963): A grim and often brutal tale of Rugby in northern England. I has its problems and hasn’t aged that well in places but is still a powerful film with some great moments.

Ice Hockey: Slap Shot (1977): To the uninitiated (like me) ice hock is a sport that breaks out occasionally when the fighting subsides. It is therefore fitting that the most iconic movie to depicts the sport portrays a team that resorts to violent play to gain popularity.

Surfing: Big Wednesday (1978): From the early 60’s through to the mid 70’s Big Wednesday chronicles the lives of three friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Its also a great surf movie.

Cycling: Breaking Away (1979): Like so many other sports movies, Breaking Away is as much about growing up as it is about sport. It sits as well with Fandango or American Graffiti as it does with a sports movie and is all the better for it.

Boxing: Raging Bull (1980): Martin Scorsese’s tale of Boxer Jake LaMotta is so much more than a sports movie but along the way it manages to be the best sports movie ever made. The American Film Institute voted it the best film of the 80’s, its hard to argue with them.

Golf: Caddyshack (1980): originally well received and like so many 80’s comedies Caddyshack gained a cult status. It has more recently had a bit of a backlash as people suggest it isn’t as funny as they remember. Whatever your thoughts, its worth seeing for Bill Murray’s performance alone.

Athletics: Chariots of Fire (1981): I saw the reissue of this movie at the cinema earlier this year. Telling the true story of two athletes and what they did to get to the 1924 Paris Olympics, it has lost none of its impact in the thirty years since its release.

Horse Racing: Champions (1984): The true story of jockey Bob Champion who survived testicular cancer and went on to win the Grand National. His horse Aldaniti plays himself in the movie.

Pool: The Color of Money (1986): The Hustler (1961) is the obvious choice but I prefer Martin Scorsese’s sequel to the original. The greatest triumph and the reason the movie works so well is the brilliant way Newman and Cruise play off each other.

Skiing: The Blizzard of AAHHH’s (1988): Speed skiers often reach speeds in excess of 125mph, early in this seminal documentary we are told that Glen Plake gave it up because he found it boring. This movie tells of what he and others did instead and thus began the extreme skiing movement.

Baseball: Bull Durham (1988): There is something about baseball that makes it work particularly well in movies. My favourite of Kevin Costner’s three baseball movies is the sublime Bull Durham.

Basketball: White Men Can’t Jump (1992): Forget the NBA, basketball in movies is all about the streets and this story of a pair of hustlers is as good as it gets.

Football: Fever Pitch (1997): Football is near impossible to get right in movies, Fever Pitch gets it right by not actually showing football. Based around real events and telling what it is to be a fan.

Bowling: The Big Lebowski (1998): A film that contains bowling rather than a film about bowling but it is too good to leave off the list.

Skateboarding: Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001): Catherine Hardwicke’s 2005 movie Lords of Dogtown was told the story of the Zephyr skateboard team and was a pretty good movie. This documentary directed by original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta is even better.

Climbing/mountaineering: Touching the Void (2003): Two climbers successfully reach the summit of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in Peru, things don’t go as smoothly on the way down. Using a lot of re-enactment the movie falls somewhere between a feature film and a traditional documentary.

American Football: Friday Night Lights (2004): High school and college sport means so much more in America than in England, that is one of the reasons it is the subject of so many movies. This one is so good, that I would place it above any movie about the NFL.

Tennis: Wimbledon (2004): The story of a journeyman English tennis player who SPOILER ALERT wins Wimbledon contains all the themes of underdog you would expect from a sports movie. A likable leading man help make this lightweight rom-com more enjoyable than it should be.

Wheelchair Rugby: Murderball (2005): Murderball is the name given to the brutal sport of wheelchair rugby. Told from the point of view of Team USA and Team Canada in the two years leading up to the 2004 Paralympics in Athens this documentary of the sport is gripping, exciting and rewarding.

Wrestling: The Wrestler (2008): Is professional wrestling a sport? Probably not, but with a movie this good I can’t leave it off the list. Darren Aronofsky has a way of making any subject interesting, he is aided by a great cast including the ever dependable Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei who are both at their best.

Mixed-Martial Arts: Redbelt (2008): Warrior (2011) is a better known movie about Mixed-Martial Arts, I prefer David Mamet’s film Redbelt. With all the complexity and nuance you would expect from Mamet but with an unfamiliar setting. 

Roller Derby: Whip It (2009): Going into this movie I had no idea what Roller Derby was, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is an enjoyable film in its own right but is also a great advert for the sport. 

Motor racing: Senna (2010): A fantastic and moving doc telling the story of Ayrton Senna, a man who was possibly the greatest racing driver of all time, the true greatness of the film is the number of none F1 fans who also enjoyed it. It featured in my top five movies from 2011.

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Three years to the day after my first ever post (incidentally about the upcoming Oscars) I am here to announce the 1st Annual Groovers Movie Awards. No nominations, just winners. Ten categories, most of which are the same or similar to those in other awards. The award itself named the “Dom” is modelled after a Dom Pérignon bottle (you need to watch Fandango to understand the relevance) and will remain virtual unless Moët want to step in as a sponsor me.

Best Movie:

The Artist: A virtually silent black and white movie with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio about the end of the silent movie era doesn’t sound very exciting. The result is totally stunning, charming and funny. The overwhelming favourite for the pest picture Oscar. 

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese for Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is a stunning film beautifully made and even achieving the seemingly impossible task of making 3D work. 

Best Actress:

Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Missing out to Meryl Streep at the BAFTAs and completely overlooked by the Oscars, Tilda Swinton was my only contender for best actress.

Best Actor:

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard: Missing out to Jean Dujardin for The Artist in Golden Globes and pretty much overlooked by other awards, Brendan Gleeson reminded us what a great actor he is.

Best Screenplay:

Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Notable not only for how well written it is, but for what a tough job it must have been given the unusual structure of the source novel.

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Skin I live in: Winner of the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language but not submitted for the equivalent Oscar (Spain chose to submit the as yet not released in the UK, Black Bread) sees Auteur Pedro Almodóvar at his bizarre best.

Best Documentary:

Senna: Not only the best documentary of the year, but the best documentary I have seen in many years.

Best Looking Movie:

Melancholia: An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Melancholia wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.

Movie Stars of the year:

Best actor and actress awards age given for the for individual outstanding performances but the movie star of the year award is given for an outstanding performances in multiple films in a year:

Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Tree of Life, The Debt, Take Shelter)

Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre)

Fandango Award:

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 filmmakers of the year. The award is shared between two movies that interestingly were both co-written by their director and star:

Nick Damici and Jim Mickle for Stake Land

Mike Cahill and Brit Marling for Another Earth

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With just a week to go until the 84th Academy Awards Britain’s foremost film critic, self confessed Luddite and 3D hater Mark Kermode has announced his own awards The Kermode’s. For someone who prides himself on being opinionated he actually talks a lot of sense and as often as not his opinions tend to be spot on. The only hard and fast rule of the awards is you can’t win a Kermode in a category for which you have been nominated for an Oscar. Here are the winners of the statuette that appears to be modelled in equal parts after Mark Kermode, “Oscar” and Richard Nixon!

Best Musical: Directors Renaud Barret, Florent de La Tullaye for Benda Bilili!

Best Documentary: Director: Asif Kapadia for Senna.

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender for Shame.

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin & Olivia Colman for Tyrannosaur.

Best Movie & Best Director: Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin.

I haven’t seen Benda Bilili! so can’t comment on that one. As for the others, it is hard to believe they aren’t nominated for Oscars. Check back tomorrow for the first ever Groovers Movie Awards.

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With just a couple of days to go until BAFTA Awards here are my thoughts on who I think will win and who I would choose.

  • Best Film
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: The Artist
  • Other nominees: The Descendants, Drive, The Help
  • Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Other nominees: My Week with Marilyn, Senna, Shame
  • Best Actor
  • Who I think will win: Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: George Clooney for The Descendants
  • Other nominees: Jean Dujardin for The Artist, Michael Fassbender for Shame, Brad Pitt for Moneyball
  • Best Actress
  • Who I think will win: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011)
  • My Choice: Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
  • Other nominees: Bérénice Bejo for The Artist, Viola Davis for The Help, Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Who I think will win: Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn
  • My Choice: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
  • Other nominees: Jim Broadbent for The Iron Lady, Jonah Hill for Moneyball, Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Ides of March
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Who I think will win: Octavia Spencer for The Help
  • My Choice: Jessica Chastain for The Help
  • Other nominees: Judi Dench for My Week with Marilyn, Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids, Carey Mulligan for Drive
  • David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction
  • Who I think will win: Tomas Alfredson for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice:Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk
  • Other nominees: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, About Kevin, Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, Martin Scorsese for Hugo
  • Best Screenplay (Original)
  • Who I think will win: The Artist (2011): Michel Hazanavicius
  • My Choice: The Guard: John Michael McDonagh
  • Other nominees: Bridesmaids: Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig, The Iron Lady: Abi Morgan, Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen
  • Best Screenplay (Adapted)
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
  • My Choice: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
  • Other nominees: The Descendants: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash – The Help: Tate Taylor – The Ides of March: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon – Moneyball: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
  • Best Cinematography
  • Who I think will win: War Horse: Janusz Kaminski
  • My Choice: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Jeff Cronenweth
  • Other nominees: The Artist: Guillaume Schiffman – Hugo: Robert Richardson – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Hoyte Van Hoytema
  • Best Editing
  • Who I think will win: Senna: Gregers Sall, Chris King
  • My Choice: Senna: Gregers Sall, Chris King
  • Other nominees: The Artist: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius – Drive: Matthew Newman – Hugo: Thelma Schoonmaker – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Dino Jonsäter
  • Best Production Design
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald
  • My Choice: The Artist: Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
  • Other nominees: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan – Hugo: Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo – War Horse: Rick Carter, Lee Sandales
  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music
  • Who I think will win: The Artist: Ludovic Bource
  • My Choice: The Artist: Ludovic Bource
  • Other nominees: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – Hugo: Howard Shore – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Alberto Iglesias – War Horse: John Williams
  • Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
  • Who I think will win: Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine, Diarmid Scrimshaw
  • My Choice: Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine, Diarmid Scrimshaw
  • Other nominees: Attack the Block: Joe Cornish – Black Pond: Will Sharpe, Tom Kingsley, Sarah Brocklehurst – Coriolanus: Ralph Fiennes – Submarine: Richard Ayoade

A note on my selection. I have seen all the nominations mentioned above. The categories I haven’t mentioned are either because I haven’t seen the enough of the nominated movies or else I’m not that bother red about who wins. A could of categories I would like to mention are Best Film not in the English Language and Best Documentary, I have only seen one movie in each (The Skin I Live In and Senna) but as they both made it to my top ten movies list of last year, I would love to see them win.

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When I first published my top ten movies of 2011 I chose to do it a little differently to previous years by selecting films by their original release date and not the UK release date. This in theory should bring my selections in line with other top ten lists, however it presents a problem, in the UK we don’t get a some of the best movies until January. With this in mind I present my Redux Top Ten. It only has one change but it is a significant one:

  1. The Artist – Telling the story of the transition from silent cinema to “talkies” isn’t a completely original one, but it is one that hasn’t been successfully told in a long time. The ingenious thing about The Artist is the way the story is told as a mainly silent film. With charismatic leading actors and a story that is both funny and touching it is a film I couldn’t help loving.
  2. Hugo – To be called a family film these days usually means a silly kids films with a few in-jokes for older viewers but Hugo really is a film for all ages and will remain so for generations to come. A film for lovers of film by a director who truly loves his medium, he even made 3D work.
  3. Drive – This is a movie that really shouldn’t work, there isn’t much plot, its old fashioned, overly violent, the leading man doesn’t have much dialogue. For some reason it does all work and like all the best movies it will haunt your memories long after you have seen it. It missed out to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as my movie of the month back in September but on reflection it is a better movie.
  4. The Guard – What could easily have been yet another fish out water tale is elevated by prospective. Instead of focusing on Don Cheadle’s FBI agent the film is centred around Brendan Gleeson’s wiser than he first appears Irish policeman. The real star however is the script and more importantly the dialogue.
  5. Senna – The first documentary to make my top ten of the year list. A fantastic and moving story of Ayrton Senna, a man who was possibly the greatest racing driver of all time, the true greatness of the film is the number of none F1 fans who also enjoyed it.
  6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – The BBC adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is possibly the best spy thriller I have ever seen, I think the movie may just be better.
  7. We Need to Talk About Kevin – Not the easiest movie to watch but well worth the effort. Confidently directed and superbly acted (Tilda Swinton deserves an Oscar) but the real strength lies in the screenplay. Adapted from a novel with a near un-filmable format, it’s a miracle any film was made let alone such a good one.
  8. Midnight In Paris – The premise is silly and clichéd but the execution is so charming and amusing that it gets away with all its potential faults. Especially rewarding for fans of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the “Lost Generation” but entertaining and enjoyable for any film fan. Woody Allen’s best movie in a very long time.
  9. The Skin I live in – Beautifully shot, perfectly cast and brilliantly acted but most importantly Pedro Almodóvar back to his weird, bizarre best. Antonio Banderas is also back to his best and Elena Anaya deserves more roles like this.
  10. Moneyball – with a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin you expect a compelling story and snappy dialogue, I am happy to report both are present and are helped by Brad Pitt’s second great performance of the year. Reminiscent in part to The Social Network (also written by Sorkin) and that has to be a good thing.
You can see my original list HERE.

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I have one more film (The Descendants) to see before I make my Oscar predictions. Until then, never one to agree with the academy, her are my top five omissions from this years nominations.

Best Motion Picture of the Year – Drive

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Achievement in Directing – Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published – Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear for We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Documentary, Features – Senna

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The BAFTA long-list has been announced today. The list is made up of between five and fifteen nominations in each category, it will be whittled down to five to create the actual nominations announced on the 17th of this month. As the British equivalent to the Oscars often has a strong home-grown leaning it is no surprise that My Week With Marilyn and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lead the way with sixteen inclusions each.

The thing I find surprising is some of films that have been included: The Artist, The Descendants, The Iron Lady, War Horse, J. Edgar, Shame, Young Adult and Carnage. The problem isn’t that they are bad or undeserving films, it is that it haven’t seen them. Or to be more precise, that I haven’t been given the opportunity to see them yet. Two of the films I refer to went on general release today, the rest are yet to be released. This is a bizarre state of affairs for an award ceremony that is supposed to represent the best films seen in UK cinemas during 2011. A quick look at the BAFTA website explains the loophole in eligibility:

“Films must be released theatrically in the UK, within the Academy awards year: 1 January to 31 December 2011. Films that open between 1 January and 10 February 2012 inclusive may be ‘qualified’ by Distributors by being screened to Academy Film Voting Members by Tuesday 20 December 2011”.

I can only speculate the reason for BAFTA’s desire to include otherwise ineligible movies. If asked they would probably tell you that they want to be inline with the original release date of the movies and other award ceremonies. My opinion, they relish their new importance as the forerunner to the Oscars. While I don’t have a particular problem with either possibility I cant help thinking that if distributors want their movies to be eligible for awards they should show them during the “awards year” so ordinary cinemagoers like me can see them.

I also have another fear for the strange practice; providing they don’t screen utter crap, the voters could be unduly influenced by a film being put forward in this way. This already happens to a small degree by the time of year that a film is released. In last years best picture category (nominations: The Kings Speech, Black Swan and True Grit, Inception and The Social Network) three of the five nominated films were released after 31st December 2010 and none of the movies were released in the first half of the year. It isn’t just about the BAFTA’s, along with other early award ceremonies like The Golden Globe (awarded by the Starfuckers of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) the awards help influence the nominations and ultimately the winners of the Oscars.

Aside from the complaining, I would like to express my delight at a some of the included films: Drive (isn’t a typical award film), Senna (I didn’t know documentaries were eligible in the best picture category). And in the acting categories: Antonio Banderas – The Skin I Live In (none English performances are often overlooked), Brendan Gleeson – The Guard (line foreign language, comedy are often overlooked), Christopher Plummer – Beginners (released back in July – the academy have short memories).

As mentioned the nominations will be announced on 17th January and the awards will take place on Sunday 12th February.

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