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Ghostbusters is funny, boisterous, exuberant and in places spectacular. It features comedy, action and respect for its audience. The four protagonists, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) are warm, rounded and have a variety of motivations, including knowledge, creativity and belonging. And while Paul Feig’s remake pays homage to the legacy of the franchise (including some sly cameos by original cast members), it also stakes its own territory with verve and aplomb. While it is far from perfect, it is a perfectly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

The misogynistic trolling that preceded this film highlights the need for major blockbusters with female leads whose gender is not an issue. Four men busting the paranormal causes no controversy; therefore neither should four women. The problems with the film can be laid squarely at the feet of co-writer/director Paul Feig. Feig has great comic skills in terms of slapstick set pieces – the Ghostbusters trying out new equipment is a highlight – as well as wacky character banter such as the idiocy of the team’s secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). Feig is less confident with large-scale action sequences, which other directors such as Joss Whedon and Shane Black tackle with grandeur while still maintaining a comedic edge. The finale of Ghostbusters is probably its weakest movement, as all hell literally breaks loose and the film veers unevenly between action and comedy. This can leave the viewer yearning for the sharpness of the inter-character moments when the film is at its most laugh out loud funny.

Feig’s weaknesses aside, his approach to mainstream filmmaking is to be applauded. Over the course of his career, closely tied to the rise of Melissa McCarthy, Feig has taken several genres and stocked them with female characters. His most accomplished film, Bridesmaids, is a romantic comedy, long associated with female audiences. However, entries in this genre often focus as much if not more on the male characters, whereas Bridesmaids focuses squarely on the women with the men very peripheral. The Heat is a buddy cop comedy, which would typically centre on male characters, as would the genre of Spy, but Feig demonstrates that these narratives work just as well with women. The success of these Feig/McCarthy collaborations demonstrates the commercial viability of mainstream movies with women as central characters, and Ghostbusters continues this trend. Now if a majority of studio executives would accept this empirical reality, wouldn’t that be a positive step towards equality?




The romantic comedy is a much maligned genre, continually treated with disdain and a lack of respect, given the derogatory term “chick flick,” as if films “for women” are somehow other and lesser than “regular people” (i.e. men). This is often unwarranted, as the rom-com provides great opportunities for comedic scenarios and engaging characters. Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow and written by star Amy Schumer, demonstrates this potential, as Schumer and co-star Bill Hader are very funny as well as being a convincingly adorable couple whose path does not run smooth. Furthermore, while the film follows a conventional plot of troubled romance, it does so with verve and brio, delivering comedic and heartfelt moments in equal measure. Much of Trainwreck’s success comes from presenting the gross-out humour that Apatow excels at from a woman’s perspective. Much like Bridesmaids, Trainwreck is not afraid of bodily function gags that are as nauseating as they are hilarious, nor does it shy away from sex jokes. Again like Bridesmaids (but unlike many other sex comedies), these jokes are from a woman’s perspective, Schumer’s script explicitly exploring the humour of sexuality from a point of view seen all too rarely in mainstream cinema. In so doing, it is reminiscent of another recent comedy, Spy, as Trainwreck demonstrates what really shouldn’t be unusual or striking – films focused on women are not just for women, they are about people and all people can enjoy them.


Melissa-McCarthy-Spy-Poster-Goldfinger A suave, debonair spy holds a sinister Eastern European at gunpoint, making it clear who is in control, then sneezes because of hay fever. Meanwhile, the spy’s tech support precisely guides him through the elaborate underground complex, while the other CIA hub agents deal with a pest infestation. From these opening moments, Spy presents familiar features of the spy genre while simultaneously adding its own comedic spin to them. hub Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy’s third collaboration (after Bridesmaids and The Heat) is a spy action comedy that knows its genre and winks this knowingness to the audience. It takes itself seriously enough to deliver startling action sequences with genuinely nasty violence, but maintains humour to ensure that each scene delivers the laughs. The film relies, with great judgement, on McCarthy’s versatility, talent and charisma for both its dramatic and comedic impact. McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a brilliant CIA tech who is sent into the field due to her anonymity after agent identities are leaked. Cooper takes on international arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and her gang of thugs, while ex-master spy Rick Ford (Jason Statham) blunderingly attempts to complete the mission himself, stopping just long enough to tell Cooper of his ludicrous exploits. jason-statham-in-spy-movie-4 McCarthy commands every scene she’s in with a layered performance of ambition, frustration, creativity and determination. Whether talking her way into a casino or out of a Mexican standoff, Cooper remains sympathetic and compelling. While she is very funny, the biggest laughs of the film are often prompted by Statham, who repeatedly sends up his hard man image with preposterous stories and bungling incompetence. Strong support also come from Jude Law, Allison Janney, Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz, while the script delivers fast and sophisticated gags and Feig proves himself a skilled action director, especially during a fight between Cooper and opponent Nargis Fakhri that is as gripping and wince-inducing as any scrap Paul Greengrass has delivered. fight As well being hilarious, intelligent and exciting, Spy is also important and, as another critic has argued, groundbreaking. Spy dares to propose that (a) it is alright to be fat because fat does not equal worthless or wretched; (b) fat jokes are not alright and need to be highlighted as such; (c) a woman does not need to be judged beautiful by others in order to feel valued; (d) a woman’s narrative need not end in romantic resolution with a man to be happy because, shockingly, there is more to life to romance! While there is much to enjoy in Spy, it is also to be applauded as a sobering reminder of the inequality of gender representation in mainstream cinema, and how far we have to go before such a film is commonplace rather than exceptional. Spy11

“Les Misérables” and “Silver Linings Playbook”

For the first two months of 2013, I made a point of seeing the nominees for Best Picture at the 85th Annual Academy Awards.  Some people, more hardcore than me, see every film nominated for any Oscar, but that is expensive and time-consuming.  I therefore restrict myself to seeing the Best Picture nominees.  Between 2003 and 2008, I managed all five nominees, but since the Academy expanded the list of nominees to up to ten that’s become more difficult.

Interestingly, whereas in previous years most of the Best Picture nominees were released in awards season, between December and February, the expanded list of nominees has meant that films from earlier in the year receive more consideration (and if you didn’t happen to catch them you need to wait for home release).  The Hurt Locker, Best Picture winner of 2009, was released in August in the UK, and nominees Inception and The Kids Are All Right were released in July and October, respectively.  This year, most of the nominees were released since October, including the eventual winner, Argo.  Perhaps we can credit canny Oscar campaigns for the win here.

Thus far, I’ve only reviewed Zero Dark Thirty.  This was mainly due to the reactions the film had received as I expected they were incorrect and unfair (I was right).  I was utterly captivated by Zero Dark Thirty and, were I a member of the AMPAS, I would have voted for it to win.  Life of Pi and Argo, the actual winner, I saw and reviewed last year before they were nominated.  But what about the rest (Amour, sadly, does not make an appearance as I am yet to see it)?

Les Misérables and Silver Linings Playbook

Les Mis

Les Misérables is a film of grand scales: the scale of the French Revolution; the scale of the oppression upon the wretched; the scale of the emotion that swells in rebellion; the scale of the volume delivered by singers with slight frames.  And yet, I found the experience somewhat underwhelming.  This might have been a matter of expectations (which seems familiar) – the trailers for Les Misérables had me wanting to burst into song and I hoped to do exactly that at the cinema, Code of Conduct be damned!  I didn’t, and nor did I feel moved to do so, as the different narrative strands were not drawn together well enough to draw me into the world of the film.

Les Misérables is a patchy film.  Some parts are weak, such as Russell Crowe’s singing and Tom Hooper’s direction.  Other parts are very good, including the performances of Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, the production design and the costumes.  The cinematography is intermittently effective: various shots present an unbalanced frame for what seem to be excessively long takes.  A character’s head occupies half the frame, but the other half is empty, apparently so the viewer can admire the wallpaper.  Whatever the reasons for this, it is highly distracting.  At other points though, the cinematography is very effective, especially during the film’s standout sequence, the number “I Dreamed a Dream” performed by Fantine (Hathaway).  Presented in only three shots, the majority of this heart-rending rendition is mostly delivered in a single take, with extremely shallow focus that puts Hathaway’s nose and tear-filled eyes in focus, but her ears out of focus.  Perhaps the purpose of this is to express Fantine’s fading out of existence, disappearing along with her dream.  Either way, it is effective.

This sequence, of course, would have been nothing without the song itself, which is very moving.  Indeed, the best feature of Les Misérables is the music, an extraordinary symphony of voices (most of then good) and instruments that carry one above the shortcomings and summon us all to the barricades.  Yet this is something of a problem.  If the best thing about an adaptation of a musical is the music, then something in the adaptation is inadequate.  A film adaptation, especially of something that already exists in a dramatic form, needs to do something uniquely cinematic in order to work as a film.  The rousing sequences of Les Misérables are medleys, with different singers contributing to a chorus that rises to a crescendo.  Cinema is ideal for such a sequence as editing can cut between different people and locations with an ever-increasing tempo that exacerbates the tension.  Yet Les Misérables does not capitalise on this opportunity except to follow the lead of the music itself, such as in the emotional climax of the film, “One Day More”.  For that moment, the film reaches the heights to which it aspires throughout.  Elsewhere, though, director Tom Hooper appears to follow the music’s lead and simply transpose the musical to the screen, which can leave the viewer feeling they might as well have seen it on stage.  Come the Oscars ceremony, a medley was performed, with Jackman, Hathaway, Crowe, along with Eddie Marsden, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Helena Bonham-Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, and seemingly the entirety of the cast, on stage at the Dolby Theater, and it was very impressive.  The film was impressive as well, but only in parts.

Overall, Les Misérables fails to deliver emotion as sweeping as its scale.  By contrast, Silver Linings Playbook is an acutely observed, intimate comedy drama.  Writer-director David O. Russell allows his actors to play out long scenes that veer from funny to painful to sweet.  I have written previously that I am more interested in plot than character, but in a narrative like this, the development of the characters and their relationships is the plot, so in order for the film to work, the characters need to be engaging in themselves and in their interactions.  As Pat, Bradley Cooper is a wonderfully sympathetic lead, by turns loveable and infuriating (much like people in our own lives).  In her Oscar-winning performance as Tiffany, Jennifer Lawrence matches him for wit, social awkwardness and forthrightness, the two of them creating one of the most sympathetic screen couples of recent memory.  Crucially, they are both awkward, Pat because he is bi-polar and has poor social skills, Tiffany because she has little patience for social niceties.  In an early scene, Tiffany tells Pat that they are both “different”, and should exult in this.

The awkwardness of the central characters is important because Silver Linings Playbook highlights and revels in the joys of being different, as the oddball couple bond through peculiar conversations, especially an excruciating non-date that involves Raisin Bran and tea.  The time Pat and Tiffany spend together feels like time lived, their relationship noticeably growing as they learn more about each other.  It grows through Pat’s obsession with being fit, getting his wife back, reconnecting with his old life and even his mantra of “looking for a silver lining”.  It grows through Tiffany learning to trust another person, her soundproofed dance studio a manifestation of her shielded heart.  Tiffany is a glorious creation, Lawrence giving her the perfect balance of sass, sweetness and sexiness, combined with intelligence, pain and ambition.  She isn’t a typical romantic comedy heroine, which is another reason to exult.

The developing relationship between Pat and Tiffany is also the means by which all the characters rebuild their lives.  Pat’s quest for a silver lining is to build his life out of the fragments he begins the film with, and the same is true of Danny (Chris Tucker, in a remarkably low-key performance).  Pat, Snr. (Robert De Niro) seeks to rebuild his life after being laid off, both through his bookmaking as well as reconnecting with his son.  Similarly, Dolores (Jackie Weaver) wants harmony in her family.  A useful counterpoint is provided by Pat’s friend Jake (Shea Whigham), who is trying to maintain his own standard of living by working too hard and constantly trying to please his demanding wife Veronica (Julia Stiles).  Through Jake and Pat, Snr., the film references the recession, echoing other recent comedies such as Get Him to the Greek and Bridesmaids.  Like these other genre entries, Silver Linings Playbook does not allow social realism to overpower the drama, but the real world reference adds to the film’s great strength: everyone’s problems are relatable.  The characters and their situations are presented as familiar, rather than suffering from something specific and incomprehensible for the inexperienced.  For the grieving Tiffany and the bi-polar Pat, their problems are simply more acute than those of the other characters.

The film’s trump card is to use the cliché of dancing in a fresh and innovative way.  The dance sequences emphasise the work and discipline involved, rather than the sensual and sexual dimension – this is Dynamic Dancing rather than Dirty Dancing.  Pat and Tiffany do not draw closer because dancing substitutes for sex, but because they work towards a common goal and build a relationship through this shared endeavour.  This creates a parallel with all the characters who are trying to build something – as Pat and Tiffany get closer to the dance competition, the investment of the other characters and the viewer is increased.  The viewer is drawn into the development of this project, which adds significance to the final performance.  And, remarkably, the film’s climax actually made me care about the result of an American football game.

Silver Linings Playbook is the epitome of bittersweet, balancing the sentiment with suffering.  Les Misérables, oddly, works hard to ladle on the pain but is only intermittently successful.  This comes down to direction, and I fully applaud the Academy for nominating Russell for Achievement in Directing but leaving Hooper out.  Hooper fails to deliver the precision that made The King’s Speech so impressive, while Russell not only focuses on the actions of his characters but also allows his scenes and actors to keep going, much as he did in The Fighter.  It seems Russell will be uniting the stars he has directed to Oscar-winning performances in his future project based on the Abscam investigation.  Mr Hooper, maybe try something smaller next time?

Silver Linings

Oscar Predictions

The 84th Annual Academy Awards are almost upon us.  These are my predictions for what will win, and also what I would like to win.  In some cases,  I also offer a consideration as to why film X will win.  This is, to my mind, rather more interesting than just lambasting the Academy for not nominating what I happen to think is best.  After all, what makes my opinion, or anyone’s, more valid than someone else’s?

Best Picture

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

The Artist has captivated everyone it seems, and in some quarters there is probably a backlash saying “It isn’t really that good”, which will doubtless increase after it sweeps the board.  But I thought Hugo was an even more interesting, as well as poignant and touching, love letter to early cinema.  Two highly cine-literate films, and the wit, verve and sheer artistry of Hugo wins my vote.  But it seems the charm and novelty of The Artist cannot be stopped, and come Oscar night, it is to be rewarded again.

Best Director

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Alexander Payne
Hugo, Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

Both The Artist and Hugo are intensely directed, but it seems that nostalgia will triumph over innovation.  Scorsese has always been a highly innovative director, but the Academy will reward Hazanavicius’ use of silent cinema techniques, and the members’ nostalgia for old cinema will win the night.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir in A Better Life
George Clooney in The Descendants
 Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

This might have been a close race between Dujardin and Clooney, but the “silent” star has pulled ahead, and the sheer novelty of his physical performance will triumph over Clooney’s impressive performance which, like the rest, is a standard type of performance.  Just by being different, Dujardin is great.  But in a performance that is very quiet, though not silent, Gary Oldman gives a masterclass in minimalism, yet delivers volumes.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis in The Help
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
 Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn

It’s been a long time since Meryl Streep won, although she gets nominated every year.  Playing an actual person who is suffering from a mental illness, as well as having to play her at different ages, will net her an Oscar this year.  I have no objection, as she is the best thing in The Iron Lady by a long way.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

 Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Nick Nolte in Warrior
 Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Tough call, and I’ve only seen Branagh, but this looks to be time to reward stalwarts, and Plummer has had a few nominations before but never won.  It’s his time.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role

 Bérénice Bejo in The Artist
Jessica Chastain in The Help
 Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
 Octavia Spencer in The Help

The Help has been nominated in several categories, but in all other cases there are much stronger nominees, so I think this will be the one it walks away with, as it seems The Help somehow should have an award.  Plus it gives the Academy members a chance to indicate that they are not racist.  But I would love to see comedy rewarded more.

Best Adapted Screenplay

 The Descendants, Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Hugo, John Logan
The Ides of March, George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Moneyball, Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin; Story by Stan Chervin
 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a great film that has clearly impressed many, including the Academy members.  Only being nominated in a couple of categories means that if it is going to win anything, it will be this one (and it isn’t competing against The Artist).  One of the writers has also died, which historically tends to lead to awards.  It’s cynical, but I expect the Academy to award the film both for its brilliant script, and as a means of honouring the deceased.

Best Original Screenplay

 The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids, Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
Margin Call, J.C. Chandor
 Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

Again The Artist will leave the others in its wake, not least for being unusual in having to convey almost everything through cinematic language, including plot and character, rather than having to reply on dialogue.  Being different will win this one as well.  But again, I’d like to see comedy rewarded.

 Best Foreign Language Film

 Bullhead, Belgium
Footnote, Israel
In Darkness, Poland
Monsieur Lazhar, Canada
 A Separation, Iran

I’ve not seen any of these, but all reports are that A Separation is outstanding, so I’ll go for that.

Best Documentary Feature Film

 Hell and Back Again, Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
Pina, Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
Undefeated, TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas

Again, not seen any, so this is a pure guess.

Best Animated Feature Film

A Cat in Paris, Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
 Chico & Rita, Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Puss in Boots, Chris Miller
Rango, Gore Verbinski

I suggest Chico & Rita because it’s unusual, like The Artist.  Animated Feature is a funny category, but having only seen Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, they don’t seem like Oscar material.

Best Original Song 

 “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown; Lyric by Siedah Garrett

I don’t remember “Real in Rio” at all, and “Man or Muppet” displays musical inventiveness, characterisation and nostalgia, which is doing well this year.

Best Original Score

The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
 The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams

The Artist has picked up many awards for its score, and there is little reason not to expect it to continue.  Again, due to the lack of dialogue, more needs to be expressed through music than an average film, and for this reason its score is more noticeable, and will therefore be honoured.  But I certainly noticed the music in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Best in  Film Editing 

The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
 Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

Best Picture and Editing usually go together, but I think Hugo will get some Academy love in technical categories.  I’d like that.

Best in Makeup

Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
 The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

A remarkable progression of ages will win The Iron Lady its other award.

Best Costume Design

 Anonymous, Lisy Christl
 The Artist, Mark Bridges
Hugo, Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre, Michael O’Connor
W.E., Arianne Phillips

Much like the music and the performances, costume helps convey the moods and meanings of The Artist.  It will win for its expression.

Best in Art Direction

The Artist, Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
 Hugo, Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris, Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
War Horse, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

Another area where Hugo will get some love, because it so much of the film’s meaning is through its mise-en-scene.  A clockwork cinematic landscape like the inside of cameras themselves will earn Hugo an award here.

Best in Cinematography

 The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo, Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

This could go either way, especially due to the use of 3D in Hugo, but I think the Academy will lean towards nostalgia here.

Best in Sound Editing

Drive, Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ren Klyce
 Hugo, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
War Horse, Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Another technical win for the film that won’t win major awards.  As this is the only award Drive is up for, I’d like it to win.

Best in Sound Mixing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
 Hugo, Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
Moneyball, Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, David Giammarco and Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
War Horse, Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

See above.

Best in Visual Effects

 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
Hugo, Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann and Alex Henning
Real Steel, Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Rise of the Planet of the Apes has astounding effects, but I think the Academy are likely to give a franchise achievement to Harry Potter.

Best Animated Short Film
“Dimanche/Sunday” Patrick Doyon
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
“La Luna” Enrico Casarosa
“A Morning Stroll” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
 “Wild Life” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Just a guess here.

Best Live Action Short Film  [1 point]
“Pentecost” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
“Raju” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
 “The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George
“Time Freak” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
“Tuba Atlantic” Hallvar Witzø

And here.

Best Documentary Short Film
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
“God Is the Bigger Elvis” Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
“Incident in New Baghdad” James Spione
“Saving Face” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
 “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

And here.

BAFTA 2012

Very quickly, these are my predictions for the British Academy Awards scheduled for 12th February.  For a bit of variety, as well as including who and what I think will win, in some cases I’ve also noted who and what I would like to win (in some cases, they’re the same).  This is not the same as saying who should win – after all, who am I to say what’s best?  If I become a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, then I’ll be qualified (it could happen), but for now, I’m not so arrogant as to assume I know best.  Anyway, enjoy the BAFTAs, and see if I’m right!

Best Film

The Artist

The Descendants


The Help

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Artist is set to continue its winning ways, which if nothing else is quite a novelty (the film, not its winning ways).  But Drive gave me a particular thrill, and I’m glad to see it recognised at least with a nomination

Film Not in the English Language




A Separation

The Skin I Live In

Haven’t seen any of these, but A Separation is gathering the kudos so why doubt its continuance?

Outstanding British Film

My Week with Marilyn



Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin has been widely praised and I see the Academy rewarding it.  I have only seen two of these, and wasn’t that impressed by My Week with MarilynTTSS, however, was excellent.


The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius

Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn

Hugo – Martin Scorsese

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Tomas Alfredson

We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lynne Ramsay

It seems nothing can stop Michel Hazanavicius, but thanks for reminding us of the sheer range of cinematic wonder, Marty.

Leading Actor

Brad Pitt (Billy Beane) – Moneyball

Gary Oldman (George Smiley) – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

George Clooney (Matt King) – The Descendants

Jean Dujardin (George Valentin) – The Artist

Michael Fassbender (Brandon) – Shame

It is Clooney’s time, methinks, and with The Artist attracting awards like a magnet, I think BAFTA may honour The Descendants here.  But I love our Gary.

Leading Actress

Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller) – The Artist

Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher) – The Iron Lady

Michelle Williams (Marilyn Monroe) – My Week with Marilyn

Tilda Swinton (Eva) – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Viola Davis (Aibileen Clark) – The Help

Streep is easily the best thing in The Iron Lady, and it’s about time she won again.

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer (Hal) – Beginners

Jim Broadbent (Denis Thatcher) – The Iron Lady

Jonah Hill (Peter Brand) – Moneyball

Kenneth Branagh (Sir Laurence Olivier) – My Week with Marilyn

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Paul Zara) – The Ides of March

Tough one here, but Broadbent is the sort of chap/performance that BAFTA tend to reward, so I think it’ll be him.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is always great, and especially acerbic and powerful in The Ides of March,  so that would be nice.

Supporting Actress

Carey Mulligan (Irene) – Drive

Jessica Chastain (Celia Foote) – The Help

Judi Dench (Dame Sybil Thorndike) – My Week with Marilyn

Melissa McCarthy (Megan) – Bridesmaids

Octavia Spencer (Minny Jackson) – The Help

The Help is a terribly respectable film but only the acting is outstanding, so I see it getting rewarded here but nowhere else.  But give an award to comedy for laughing out loud!

Animated Film

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Arthur Christmas


Original Music

The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Artist tells so much with its music, plus it aids the nostaliga.

Original Screenplay

The Artist


The Guard

The Iron Lady

Midnight in Paris

Again, nothing stops the silent star.  But come on, Bridesmaids is SO funny!

Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants

The Help

The Ides of March


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

TTSS gets thrown a bone – a fairly meaty one for a thoroughly meaty script.


The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

There’s almost no limit to what you can do with a camera…


The Artist




Tinker Tailor Solider Spy

Production Design

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

Make Up & Hair

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2


The Iron Lady

My Week with Marilyn

Costume Design

The Artist


Jane Eyre

My Week with Marilyn

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Special Visual Effects

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2


Rise of the Planet of the Apes

War Horse


George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Project Nim



The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

Top Ten of 2011

These are my top ten films of 2011.  The list is hardly academic, just a simple list of favourites, and my reasons for them.

1. Hugo

An enchanting and poignant reminder of why and how we fall in love with cinema.

2. Super 8

A wonderfully realised piece of cinema nostalgia that manages to establish and express its own identity.

3. Drive

Cool, thrilling, compelling and shocking. The best Michael Mann film that Michael Mann didn’t make.

4. Bridesmaids

The funniest film of the year – two hours was not enough!

5. Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy

An intense, intelligent spy thriller, with a calm, measured yet never less than gripping pace.

6. True Grit

Atmospheric, gripping and soulful, with a nice line in gallows humour.

7. X-Men: First Class

True to the spirit and narrative of the previous instalments, yet still with an identity of its own.

8. The Ides of March

National politics collide with personal ethics in a thriller that shows what’s wrong with electoral practice.

9. Fair Game

An interesting post Iraq War film, that may make you very, very angry.

10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

An atmospheric and brooding film that slips easily into shocks and thrills.

Almost in but not quite:

Hanna – a new twist on the spy thriller, merged neatly with a fairy tale.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – an old franchise rises again!

Source Code – intelligent science fiction and a gripping story.

Honourable mentions:


Captain America: The First Avenger

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

The Debt

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Real Steel

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


Turkey of the year: Your Highness. Not awful, but not that good either.