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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri-movie-6

Martin McDonagh’s third feature is touching, moving, darkly humorous and deeply tragic. This seemingly contradictory concoction is expressed through a beautifully measured and exquisitely designed portrait of small town America. Ebbing, Missouri is a town where everyone knows everyone and the major advertising agency, police station and popular bar are within walking distance of each other. Yet it is also a deeply troubled and fractured town. These fractures are foreshadowed in the opening shots, where DOP Ben Davis captures the dilapidated titular billboards, the frame sliced with the supporting struts much as the town is sliced through with mistrust and resentment. For the most part, the direction follows this unobtrusive approach, until a long take expresses the eruption of previously contained violence. This violence is key to its perpetrator, who like all the characters is superbly realised both by McDonagh’s merciless yet tender script, and an array of mighty performances from the entire cast. From incidental figures such as the pretty but oblivious Penelope (Samara Weaving) to supporting characters like James (Peter Dinklage) who cynically embraces the label of ‘town midget’, to the three leads of Mildred (Frances McDormand), Police Chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), all the people in this tale are rounded, engaging and brilliantly flawed figures. Mistakes are made, judgements held and everyone is wracked with anger, pain and loss. Yet there is also compassion, care and love, both between characters and for the film’s world as a whole. For all its harshness and tragedy, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a wonderfully human story, offering emotional peaks and troughs as well as a subtle socio-political commentary as it gives voice to a largely neglected part of America.

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Everest

Everest is a mountain with two peaks, one of which is the highest point on Earth. Similarly, Baltasar Kormákur’s dramatization of a famous 1996 Everest expedition is a film of two halves, one of which is a gripping, moving and occasionally visceral experience, but the other is meandering and unfocused. The latter is the first half, in which the film becomes burdened with too many characters and fails to explore the motivations of those who risk life and limb to scale the mountain. The engaging half of the film is that concerned with the actual climb, as a motley crew of climbers, led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) experience extraordinary cold, sparse oxygen and treacherous ice and rock faces. There are vertiginous moments where the viewer gets a sense of the sheer drop below, as well as the scale of the mountain and the immense storms that assail them. But there are just as many moments where the film cuts between its range of rather bland characters, never spending enough time to really understand them or communicate their situation. This lack of focus or depth is most apparent in the first half of the film, as the climbing team assemble and acclimatise to the mountainous conditions. There is amiable bickering and brief discussions of overcrowding, but the paradox of overcrowding in one of the world’s most inhospitable places is not explored. At its best moments, Everest shows agony and anguish in equal measure, especially when Rob, now in dire straights, talks on the radio to his pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley). This moment wrung tears from me, but overall I found the film lacking in emotional engagement. One might see the film because it’s there, but you may come down wondering if that’s reason enough.

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.

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).