There’s not too long now until some of our favourite stars put on their fanciest frocks and tuxedos and grace the red carpet for the most prestigious awards in the world of the movies. With the recent release of many critically-acclaimed films, it’s hard to predict amongst the many nominees who will go home with the little golden man. But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try…
The Tree Of Life
Midnight In Paris
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close
With The Descendants walking away with the Golden Globe for ‘Best Picture’ a few weeks ago, it’s hard not to assume it will win. The correlation of these two awards happens most of the time. However, with all the recent hype about The Help and The Artist, The Descendants is certainly not a sure winner.
Brad Pitt – Moneyball
George Clooney – The Descendants
Gary Oldman – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Demian Bichir – A Better Life
If Clooney doesn’t win this one, it will be a shocker. But the Oscars are renowned for going with the golden oldies for their winners, so Gary Oldman, you’re in with a shot.
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
Rooney Mara – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Viola Davis – The Help
Meryl Streep has got this in the bag it’s believed, there’s nothing that woman can’t do. And the film she’s nominated for is political and a true story; there’s no beating that in the eyes of the Academy Awards. However, Mara’s transformation, not only physically but mentally, really does show and teaches us what acting is all about. If she wins, it is well and truly deserved.
Even though the legendary likes of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock grace our screens in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, there is no doubt it is young newcomer Thomas Horn that shines in this moving drama. 12-year-old Horn plays Oskar Schell, a troubled young boy dealing with his fears in everyday life as well as coping with the death of his father (Tom Hanks) along with maintaining his relationship with his mother (Sandra Bullock).
Brought to us by the stylistic director Stephen Daldry, the visionary behind award-winning films like The Readerand Billy Elliot,this movie possesses some wonderful visuals (most likely lifted straight from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer) – a young boy running alongside a train shaking his tambourine for comfort, an old man afraid to talk so leaves notes everywhere he goes, and paper birds fluttering in the sky. You could almost say it is has the touch of the whimsy about it, much like existing movie, The Lovely Bones.
There have been a fair number of films that tackle the [still sore] subject, of the September 11 terrorist attacks, but not one before this has looked so closely into how it affected those who lost someone in the devastation. There is so much character development, and the beautifully written dialogue allows the audience to feel so close to the people in the film, causing their moments of pain and anguish to give you a lump in your throat. Not only is this movie a tear-jerker however, it does have some endearing comedic bits particularly the parts in which Oskar is playing and exploring with his dad. These scenes stop the movie from making the viewers feel like complete emotional wrecks, but rather heart-warmed and touched.
It’s the kind of movie that stays with you, hours after you leave the cinema. It has the ability to move you, even though chances are, your life is not related to the 9/11 attacks in anyway. Yes, that is what this film is about but it goes beyond that with personal insight on the character’s part, making the audience think about, their own fears, own lives and how sacred the relationships within them are. They should re-name this film Extremely Good Acting & Incredibly Moving. It is surprising that, even though it is his debut breakout film, Horn is not nominated for any awards in this season – but keep your eyes peeled, this budding actor will definitely be up there with the greats soon if Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is anything to go by.
In a futuristic world where everyone stops aging at 25, and are only guaranteed one more year of life after that, time is the new currency. If you run out of time, you clock out, and that means clocking out of life. Not the same kind of joyous feeling accompanies that, than when you finish your daily nine-to-five. It is set in a society where everyone is sectioned off to their “time zones”; this segregates the wealthy from the poor. You have to pay in time to advance to the next time zone so people rarely do, as the less affluent people are never well-off enough to travel through. This system keeps order, furthered by the law-enforcement, the Time-Keepers, who make sure the right amount of time is in circulation and no-one gains time that they do not know how to handle. The plot is focussed on Ghetto- dweller Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) who lives his life one day at a time, with never more than 24 hours on his “clock”. A chance meet with a stranger leaves him accumulating over a century’s worth of time, an amount that someone would kill for. The action entails when he’s forced to answer the question, ‘if you had more time than you needed, what would you do with it?’
The film shares a similar premise to the theory of Robin Hood; Will is intent on not wasting a second he’s been given, and he realises that he can help many people by stealing year’s worth of time from those who have it in excess, and giving it to those who have only minutes left. Timberlake’s love-interest in the movie is Amanda Seyfried who plays a suffocated, millionaire’s daughter; looking for a way to live her life without the worry that someone will force it from her. When you have so much to lose, the risk is too great to live in the moment. Her character is interesting, a “bird-stuck-in-a-cage” presented with the chance to break free is always a winner, but the lack of chemistry between the two leads is really the only thing that lets the whole film down. As the movie progresses, it takes on a ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ for the digital age’ feel as the central characters elude the law and start bank-robbing to gain more time. And it’s not just Seyfried’s long bob that ties these two movies together; the storylines are pretty much the same.
Andrew Niccol’s film shares many parallels with life, tackling the idea of unemployment, inflation, cultural divides and gangster-like crime without actually making any distinct reference to any of those points. It seems to scratch the service of a poignant message but falls short and doesn’t really deliver the thought-provoking idea about humanity that it had the potential to, to leave audiences questioning their own existences and worth. However, it’s a unique concept, the action never stops and Timberlake’s delivery of Salas is totally emotive, so its small faults are more than forgivable.
Told straight from the memoirs of Colin Clark, who went on to be a real-life documentarian and screen-writer, My Week With Marilyn tells of the intense relationships between Monroe, and all she encountered on her debut UK film The Prince And The Showgirl, including Laurence Olivier and in fact, Clark himself.
It explores the story of magnetic Monroe, and how everyone around her was drawn to her, even if she would arrive at set, hours after schedule or forget her lines. As filming of the movie progresses, it becomes evident to the pair that, Clark and Monroe share kindred spirit; wide-eyed and lost, trying to find their way in all that is show-business, and their relationship blossoms. Clark’s infatuation with Monroe becomes known between fellow actors though and their liaison soon comes to its slow demise.
My Week With Marilyn investigates Marilyn’s real sex appeal and if she was ever comfortable being idealised in this way and if it was in fact, really her. As well as it being beautifully shot and styled, this films cast list alone is enough to make anyone want to go see it. But amongst the acting royalty, Dame Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh, it is the work of relatively newcomer, Michelle Williams which steals the spotlight. Her portrayal of Monroe, as a broken woman trying to deal with the extent of her stardom is what really captivates the audience. To see the flamboyant sex symbol, exposed in such a vulnerable way really makes the viewers question who the actress really was and if her persona was all just a front to cope with her fame. The script mixed with her representation of the legend gives the idea that all people saw was ‘Marilyn Monroe’, when really she was just, Marilyn.
Being a Twi-hard is an absolute commitment to Twilight, so this film would have had to have done something terrible to deter fans from their fascination with the 3-year running franchise. It’s portrayal of Stephenie Meyer’s novel is so close to the written story, that if you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, you’re not going to leave the cinema disappointed.
Before I start, let me just clarify I am not a Twilight hater by any means. I’ve seen all the films, I’ve read all the books, I even went to see this at the first midnight showing, however, this film just doesn’t seem to reach the quality standard of its predecessors in the saga. The only one I can blame is new director Bill Condon, who seems to be internally mocking the story in which he’s creating by having silly montages, over-acting and dragged-out scenes.
The vampires are as beautiful as ever and the werewolves are as rugged in the fourth instalment, which opens by following Edward Cullen’s assertive ‘Marry me, Bella’ in the third movie, Eclipse, as we see family and friends of the couple reacting in different ways to their wedding invitations. Bella’s mother is happy, Bella’s father (Billy Burke) is nervous and they waste no time in allowing wolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) to rip his shirt off whilst running into the pouring rain, “metaphoring” his anguish over the marriage of his love and the enemy, a bloodsucker. The ceremony quickly ensues, with the rest of the story focussing on post-marital bliss and stresses, between an 18 year old woman and her immortal husband, including a pregnancy and birth that will put you off having a child for life.
If you’re not a Twilight lover by now, this chapter is very unlikely to change your mind, as it doesn’t really differ in style to the previous 3. But throughout, there seem to be many plot-points touched upon but not explored, leaving the audience members who have not read the novel somewhat in the dark. Screen writer Melissa Rosenberg appears to just assume that all the viewers have read the book, and therefore don’t need the details explained to them every now and then.
The only flaw that Twilight- fans may really have a problem with in this movie is the lack of presence for the ominous Volturi coven, who play a central role in the final novel but seem to make little appearance in the film (unless you stick around until after all the credits have rolled). Their dangerous undertones and way of living, unlike the Cullen’s, the Volturi enjoy an innocent human snack every now and again, really added to the tension in Eclipse, something that Breaking Dawn just does not match. The attention is most certainly on the Cullen’s throughout as there is not much werewolf development in this movie either, apart from a laughable scene where the CGI wolves are using their telepathy to communicate but unfortunately their growly, raspy voices sound more like Transformers than wolves.
As much as it does remain faithful to the book, it’s questionable whether this novel should ever have been made into a movie or if it’s just one of those stories that should remain written and not made visual. As a lot of the scenes leave the audience feeling physically sick rather than sickly romantic, which the other “Twilight’s” leave you feeling. The fantasy-fiction does seem to go beyond the point of far-fetched in Breaking Dawn and there’s no doubt that it takes away the seriousness that Meyer obviously intended with the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle. It seems to be making a joke out of itself in places, which ultimately is a shame, because if it was taken seriously it could have been a dark and interesting love story, but instead we’re left with an absurd sci-fi/fantasy mix-up.
Inspired by true events, ‘Texas Killing Fields’ brings it back to basics to produce a film that leaves audiences feeling tense and uneasy. Raw, realistic and visceral, it tells the story of devout Christian Detective Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean-Morgan) recently relocated from New York City to a small town in Texas, and his hot-headed partner Detective Mark Souter (Sam Worthington) whilst they investigate the murder of a teenage prostitute. Before long, it becomes apparent that theirs is not the only killing to have occurred recently in nearby areas and Detective Heigh cannot help himself being drawn to the murders being committed outside of their immediate jurisdiction. As the detectives get closer to the murderer, the killer kidnaps local girl Anne which leads them to a race against time to find her before she becomes his next victim.
As well as exploring the stress of a career in law enforcement in a small American town, it also touches on the idea of being stuck in such a place and the tempestuous lives the characters are internally dealing with. Souter demonstrates a strained working relationship with ex-wife Pam (Jessica Chastain), a fellow cop, working on the same murders. Meanwhile Heigh appears to have trouble adjusting to living in such an unruly, Godless town. The central characters lives seem to be as murky as the waters the killer leaves his prey’s bodies in. It is very hard to empathise with any of the characters however, as screen time is spread so vastly between the leads that audiences do not have a chance to get a real taste of who the individuals are. Stories of their pasts and character developments are almost completely side-swiped and background families do not even get the privilege of names.
‘Texas Killing Fields’ shares a similar edgy style to the 2007 film ‘Zodiac’, but without the slick plot and unexpected twists and turns. Despite the storyline being rather lacklustre, it has the premise to be brilliant, with ‘Avatar’ star Worthington and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Morgan at the helm, and the acting support of “one-to-watch” Chloë Grace Moretz. The screenplay and action, even though it’s a “cop movie” is relatively slow and the director Ami Canaan Mann unfortunately does not seem to let her dream-team show off their obvious talent, as the movie is evidently more concerned with being true to the facts rather than being a cinematic masterpiece.
If fantastic acting is your thing, and you’re not concerned with elaborate, abhorrently fictitious scripts then ‘Texas Killing Fields’ is enjoyable, but if you’re looking for explosions and shoot-outs every 5 minutes then maybe wait until the next Jason Statham film comes out.