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Golden Globe Winners

Affleck

It is said that in Hollywood, no one knows anything.  As I am not in Hollywood, how much do I know, especially about what will win at the Golden Globes?

 

Best Motion Picture – Drama

Argo

Django Unchained

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Zero Dark Thirty

I said: Zero Dark Thirty.  The Globes said: Argo.  I have no problem with this as I loved Argo, and am yet to see Zero Dark Thirty.  I also said that if Zero Dark Thirty did not win, the field would go wide open.  It’s open.

 

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Les Misérables

Moonrise Kingdom

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Silver Linings Playbook

My hunch was Les Misérables, and I was right!  This barnstorming musical was the big winner at the Globes, and perhaps it will continue in this vein.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Richard Gere for Arbitrage

John Hawkes for The Sessions

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

Denzel Washington for Flight

No surprise that Daniel Day-Lewis picked up this gong, but what is surprising is that no other awards came the way of Lincoln.  Expect Mr Day-Lewis to continue his winning ways.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

I bet on Marion Cotillard, and lost (fortunately I did not bet money).  Zero Dark Thirty may not be the film to beat, but Jessica Chastain could be the woman to watch, and I have no problem with that.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Jack Black for Bernie

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Ewan McGregor for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson

My leanings were toward Hugh Jackman, and whose wouldn’t be?  No surprise as he picked up this award.  Enjoy it Hugh, you are unlikely to get another.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Emily Blunt for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Maggie Smith for Quartet

Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

I rated Jennifer Lawrence a strong contender and she walked away with globular gold.  This makes her a prime contender for further awards, so keep your eye on this one (I also have no problem with this).

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Alan Arkin for Argo

Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman had a good chance here, but instead Christoph Waltz adds another award to his cabinet.  Perhaps his fortune will continue.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams for The Master

Sally Field for Lincoln

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Helen Hunt for The Sessions

Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy

I said overall awards for Les Miserables would be scant, but it was actually the biggest winner at the Globes, Supporting Actress bringing its tally to three.  This spread of awards may be seen again at future ceremonies, with no one film sweeping the board.

 

Best Director – Motion Picture

Ben Affleck for Argo

Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

I thought this would be either Lee VS Bigelow, but instead it went to Affleck.  Interesting that the HFPA rewarded (probably) the most political film of the bunch here, but from a technical, directorial standard, Argo is masterful.  It is interesting that Affleck has a few awards now, collecting both this and the Critics Choice Award.  He could well get the DGA and the BAFTA as well, but is not up for the Oscar.  Again, the field is pretty open.

 

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Argo: Chris Terrio

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

I anticipated a sweep for Zero Dark Thirty and was so wrong, not expecting much for Django Unchained.  But Tarantino pulls it off, and perhaps he will continue to do so.

 

Best Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

Hotel Transylvania

Rise of the Guardians

Wreck-It Ralph

Having won this, Brave demonstrates the continued dominance of Pixar.  I thought Frankenweenie had a shot, but this is less likely now.

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Amour

Untouchable

Kon-Tiki

A Royal Affair

Rust and Bone

Tentatively, I went with Love, and won with Amour.  Considering the multiple awards Michael Haneke’s film is up for, this was not a surprise.

 

Overall, I got 6 correct predictions out of 12, which isn’t that good.  The Golden Globes tend to be a good indicator for future awards, but when the nominations vary, as they certainly have in the Directing category, predictions become harder.  But then, that makes things more interesting.

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Awards Predictions Part One

Globes

Awards season is upon us, and speculation is already running wild about what will pick up nods, nominations and naysaying.  I believe there is little to be gained in stating what should win and how awful it is that X was nominated and Y was not – far more interesting is predicting what will be nominated, what will win and, crucially, why.  Out of the plethora of films released in any year, some stand out and some are forgotten.  While there are certain genres, subjects and people who seem to attract attention, films that feature these elements can easily be overlooked.  It is useful, therefore, that critical organisations help us out in this respect.

The American Film Institute, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Film Critics Associations and Societies of various cities, create a nice unofficial short list with the films that they honour.  Already Zero Dark Thirty has received Best Film from the AFI, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association.  This is notable as Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s first film since their award magnet The Hurt Locker in 2009, and the plaudits heaped upon their film about the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden shows no sign of letting up.

Among these plaudits are the Golden Globes, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has capitalised on the critics’ choices with their 2013 nominations.  Already the following are up for awards and some likely winners are clear among them.

 

Best Motion Picture – Drama

Argo

Django Unchained

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Zero Dark Thirty

 

There is little reason at this stage to suspect that Zero Dark Thirty will not continue its winning ways.  If it does not, the field for future winners goes wide open.

 

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Les Misérables

Moonrise Kingdom

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Silver Linings Playbook

 

This comes down to between a musical and a comedy, as Silver Linings Playbook has been garnering a lot of love.  But Les Misérables is the kind of earnest, heart-on-sleeve melodrama that award-givers lap up.  Of the others, only Moonrise Kingdom looks to be a strong contender, and if the HFPA feel like honouring Wes Anderson for an impressive career (thus far), the film might pip the others to the post.  On a hunch, I would pick Les Misérables.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Richard Gere for Arbitrage

John Hawkes for The Sessions

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

Denzel Washington for Flight

All the buzz is about Day-Lewis and he fits the bill to win, playing a famous and much-respected historical figure who balances personal and social demands.  It is interesting that Joaquin Phoenix, rather than Philip Seymour Hoffman, is up for Best Actor, but he is unlikely to pose a serious challenge to Day-Lewis, although I think Hoffman could have.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

Marion Cottillard has attracted a great deal of admiration for Rust and Bone, as has Naomi Watts for The Impossible.  That said, slightly more obscure films often win in the Best Actress category, so Rachel Weisz is in with a chance.  Helen Mirren is the oldest of the nominees and older performers often do well, but there seems to have been little attention paid to her, while Chastain seems a little young.  At this stage, I would bet on Cotillard.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Jack Black for Bernie

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Ewan McGregor for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson

This could be Hugh Jackman’s year.  He has been a dependable, likeable leading man for over a decade, but this is his first film to have garnered awards attention.  The same could be said of Ewan McGregor, but the film he is nominated for seems too lightweight to receive serious consideration (and is itself a surprising nomination when he also stars in The Impossible).  Bill Murray may be due some attention for long service, but the nomination may serve as sufficient recognition.  I lean towards Jackman.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Emily Blunt for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Maggie Smith for Quartet

Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

Normally I would expect the older nominee, but the rise of Jennifer Lawrence’s career is such that I think she could eclipse Dench, Smith and Streep.  Furthermore, Silver Linings Playbook is the most awards friendly film of this bunch, as the others are all rather light.  I know this is the category of Musical or Comedy, but Silver Linings Playbook is a comedic film with a serious subject, so I think Lawrence is a strong contender.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Alan Arkin for Argo

Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Fairly open.  DiCaprio and Waltz may cancel each other out, being in the same film, and Jones and Arkin could be dark horses.  I lean slightly towards Hoffman as reviews indicate that he and Joaquin Phoenix are equal stars in The Master, and as Joaquin Phoenix is unlikely to beat Day-Lewis in the Best Actor category, perhaps Philip Seymour Hoffman has a better chance here.  I also wonder if the BAFTAs and the Oscars will nominate them the same way – a few years ago Kate Winslet won two Golden Globes: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Revolutionary Road and Best Supporting Actress for The Reader; then was nominated for the Best Actress BAFTA in a Leading Role for both Revolutionary Road and The Reader (she won for The Reader), and then won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for The Reader while Revolutionary Road was largely overlooked at the Oscars.  The Master may follow a similar pattern, especially if Hoffman wins this award.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams for The Master

Sally Field for Lincoln

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Helen Hunt for The Sessions

Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy

Anne Hathaway has an even better chance than Hugh Jackman of picking up an acting award for Les Misérables.  I think actual awards for this film will be scant, but Hathaway is likely to walk away with a Golden Globe and possibly more.

 

Best Director – Motion Picture

Ben Affleck for Argo

Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

I expect this to come down to Lee VS Bigelow.  Thus far Zero Dark Thirty has done very well indeed, but if anything can unseat it I would anticipate Life of Pi.  At this stage though, I expect Bigelow, and perhaps her success will continue.

 

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Argo: Chris Terrio

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

Mark Boal is probably likely to continue the winning ways of Zero Dark Thirty, especially as it is a “true” story that tends to impress award-givers.  Lincoln and Argo are also “true” stories, and the wit of Argo might serve it well, especially among journalists who write about Hollywood.  Although Argo plenty of attention, I think it is unlikely to actually win.  Screenplay might just be the category where it pulls an upset, but Zero Dark Thirty is a safer bet.

 

Best Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

Hotel Transylvania

Rise of the Guardians

Wreck-It Ralph

If Brave wins, at this and subsequent events, it will demonstrate the continued dominance of Pixar.  But Frankenweenie might be in with a shot as something of a lifetime achievement award for Tim Burton.  Burton is unlikely to ever be nominated for a live action film (his best chance was Big Fish), and reviews have described Frankenweenie has been that it is his best film in years.  It will be between Pixar and Burton in this category, and I might lean towards Frankenweenie.

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Love

Untouchable

Kon-Tiki

A Royal Affair

Rust and Bone

Tough call.  Love (or Amour) was voted Best Film by the National Society of Film Critics, so it might well scoop up a further award here.  A Royal Affair and Rust and Bone have also attracted a lot of attention, although the latter’s best chance for glory is Best Actress.  Tentatively, I’ll go with Love.

 

The Golden Globes are announced on 13th January 2013, at which point we shall see how right I was (or wasn’t).

Review of 2012 Part Six: The Neglected – The Raid on Killer Joe

Killer Joe

I’ve been posting recently on my top and bottom films of 2012, and realised I had been remiss earlier in the year.  Two films in particular impressed me in their own ways and are contenders for my top ten, so I thought it only fair to give them mention.  Both are smaller films, rather than the major blockbusters I’ve discussed recently.  I enjoy the mainstream, and seeing the full facility of cinema through big budget blockbusters and studio prestige films are among my favourite movie experiences.  The division between “mainstream” and “independent” is vague and indeterminate, and sometimes used nonsensically, not to mention inaccurately.  I have heard references to Clint Eastwood as an independent filmmaker, which is absurd as he is a Hollywood institution, whose films are always funded and distributed by major studios, usually Warner Bros.  Similarly, the world’s most successful independent filmmaker is George Lucas, who could also be regarded as the epitome of Hollywood.   If considered from a more analytical industrial perspective, the distributors of the films under discussion here are still related to major studios, so the division is unclear.

Not that it matters, as the quality of a film and one’s appreciation of it is not determined by who funded or distributed it, but by what is in the film itself.  Speaking from an auteurist position, as I do, one of the giants of New Hollywood back in the 1970s was responsible for my favourite comedy of the year, Killer Joe.  William Friedkin won the Directing Oscar for The French Connection in 1971, and went on to direct The Exorcist two years later.  He has never come close to the heights of that double whammy in the last forty years, but continued to make striking and interesting films (Bug), as well as some turkeys (Rules of Engagement).  Killer Joe is one of his successes, a pitch black comedy that is funny if you are prepared to laugh at its unflinching depravity.  Complaints about Killer Joe focus on all the characters being unsympathetic if not downright repulsive, which they are.  I question though whether being nasty is reason to criticise, as horrible characters can still be well-rounded and compelling.  To call the central family of Killer Joe white trash would be a compliment, as they are more the vermin that feed upon trash, but I was nonetheless intrigued to see what they did next.

My interest was held largely by commitment, from the script, the direction and some very fine performances.  Emile Hirsch and Thomas Haden Church convince as a couple of idiot rednecks, Gina Gershon balances sultry with embittered, and Juno Temple conveys sweet naivety and disturbing sexuality.  2012 was the year of Matthew McConaughey’s renaissance, with acclaimed performances in Killer Joe, Magic Mike and Bernie, receiving an award from the New York Film Critics Circle for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in the latter two.  I did not see those, but found his performance as the titular polite psychopath in Killer Joe to be both chilling and amusing.  McConaughey’s stony expression and slow Texan drawl lend themselves well to perfectly controlled menace.  As with other characters in 2012, the sound of the voice is central to the dangerous aura of the character.  Tom Hardy demonstrated the menace of his voice twice, famously as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (although his voice was clearly altered in post-production, so maybe that shouldn’t count) and then in the lower profile Lawless, in which he pulled off the remarkable feat of appearing dangerous while wearing a grey woollen cardigan.  A key element of Hardy’s menace was in his voice, a low, indistinct mumble that nonetheless conveyed clear authority and willingness to do harm.  In Skyfall, Javier Bardem’s almost liquid tones emphasised his relaxed attitude towards his murderous enterprises.  McConaughey’s sardonic vocalisations were perpetually chilling, especially as he spoke in much the same tone whether discussing his assassination fee or about serving tuna casserole.

Killer Joe is based on Tracy Lett’s play of the same name, and its final scene especially retains the script’s stage origin.  The escalating horror of this scene demonstrates the script’s conviction to deep levels of depravity, and Friedkin’s commitment to the story is demonstrated by the maintenance of the scene’s length.  Films based upon modern plays often shorten scene length, either through outright cutting of the script or fast editing.  When the length is retained, as in Killer Joe and also Doubt, the scenes are noticeably longer than those written specifically for the screen.  The maintenance of the final scene’s length increases the tension and indeed the horror of what may be the worst family dinner ever.  The commitment to the revolting events that unfold aids the power of the scene, and yet a twisted sense of humour is still present.  This is integral to Killer Joe’s success as a piece of cinema: the film presents humiliation and abuse, but with just the right level of wit.  Not laugh out loud funny, but still amusing if you have a strong stomach.

If Friedkin is a known if somewhat diminished directorial star, Gareth Evans is an utter unknown.  This anonymity worked to his advantage in his contribution to cinema this year, the Indonesian The Raid.  Having never heard of Evans until buzz about The Raid started, I was not sure what to expect.  What I got was the most blistering, dizzying, dazzling, delirious action film I had seen in a long time.  The combating characters flew as light as feathers yet struck with bone-crunching force – I lost count of the number of times I winced, ducked and said “Ow!  Ow!  Ow!”

I am not well-versed in martial arts cinema, The Raid being one of only a smattering of such films that make it into mainstream western cinemas.  It was also the only foreign language film I saw at the cinema in 2012.  I am keen on all films, but foreign language fare tends to be restricted to art house cinemas, and at least in Norwich, the art house cinema is more expensive than one of the multiplexes.  Unfortunate but true.  The upside is that a film like The Raid felt wonderfully fresh and different.  This is not to disparage western action cinema, which can provide visceral thrills very well as The Avengers and Skyfall did this year, but The Raid added some variety.  Whereas the wuxia genre of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and House of Flying Daggers provide balletic myths of martial arts beauty, The Raid was down, dirty, brutal and unforgiving, combining physical stunts with blazing guns and swinging machetes, to create an immersive and enthralling experience.

The Raid’s power is a combination of martial arts choreography and filmmaking.  I would describe the choreography as exquisitely channelled chaos: fists and feet flying in all directions could be chaotic and confusing (and in reality probably would be), but with the right choreography, it becomes a marvel of organisation.  This can be presented as something elegant and even serene, especially if slowed down as in the films of Zhang Yimou.  Evans, however, keeps the action fast and the cutting intimate, conveying a sense of velocity and impact.  As I have discussed previously, tension is key to action sequences, and build-up is crucial to tension.  Tension in The Raid comes in a variety of forms.  At one point, the protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) hides in a wall cavity with an injured comrade.  The gangsters searching for them repeatedly stab a machete into the wall, only just missing our heroes.  This scene is extremely tense, the tension exacerbated through extreme close ups of the characters’ faces as well as the massive blade.  During actual fight sequences, the combat is continuous yet tension is increased as the violence escalates.  Why punch your opponent once when you can do so seven times and slam their head into a wall, just to make sure they’re incapacitated?  Several stand-out fight sequences are not only highly involving, but carry major stakes as these are important characters, particularly Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) VS Jaka (Joe Taslim) as well as Mad Dog VS Rama and Andi (Donny Alamsyah).  These fights go on far longer than human endurance would actually allow, but realism is not on the agenda here.  The agenda is to show people fighting in creative and elaborate ways, and make us feel every punch, kick, head-butt and blow from an improvised weapon (my personal favourite: a shattered strip light).

The Raid could be criticised for having a plot summed up in the tagline: “1 ruthless crime lord.  20 elite cops.  30 floors of chaos.”  This is unfair, as The Raid also features betrayal, corruption, loyalty, abjection and duty.  While its main selling point is incredibly talented practitioners of pencak silat, The Raid has the bonus of an engaging protagonist in Rama, some sympathetic characters, and a villain in Tama Riyada (Ray Sahetapy), complete with psychotic henchman Mad Dog, worthy of any Bond or superhero film.  While many of the characters are cannon fodder, I nonetheless cared when the cops were hurt or killed, because Evans made sure to keep the PAIN on-screen.  Visceral cinema can simply draw one along with the action, much as Joss Whedon does in his bravura long takes like the climactic battle in The Avengers.  Evans’ approach is more brutal, as the impact of each blow is clear.  Sound adds a great deal as well, and the smack of fists and feet, not to mention the burst of skin and the breaking of bones, aid the film’s immersive thrill.  While 2012 featured many stunning sequences, nothing matched the sheer physical thwack of The Raid.

The Raid